Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

American Midwest Floods and some possible tips from the Dutch experience

Posted by butalidnl on 10 July 2008

I have been following the events of June in the American midwest, where many rivers overflowed their banks, flooding cities and croplands. It was indeed quite a disaster. And I don’t believe that this was a “hundred years flood” – with climate change and all, people should expect this to happen more often, instead of 100 years,  maybe every 20 years!

Perhaps the Americans can learn some tips from how the Dutch deal with the constant threat of floods.
First of all, the Dutch take the control of water flow quite seriously. The government always allots all the funds needed for water control projects. (Nobody ever complains at these expenses; many complain however if water projects are done too slowly)All the dikes are regularly inspected and maintained. There are elected bodies which are in charge of all aspects of water flow control in an area covering several towns. (These waterschappen even predate the founding of the Netherlands as an independent state.

And then the Dutch rivers have dikes, but they are placed differently from the American ones. The Dutch have set up two rows of dikes at their rivers. The first set, about one or two meters high is set right next to the river, or what they refer to as the river’s “summer bed”. A couple of hundred meters further is the second row of dikes. This is a more massive and tall structure, and often, there are even roads on top of them. The area between the small dike and the massive one is usually devoted to grazing land.  The whole space between the massive dikes on both sides of the river is referred to as the river’s winter bed. This is because there is often more water flowing down the river due to rains and melting snow in the countries where the rivers originate (Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium)

The Dutch also have a system of gates and special canals, which they can open when too much water is flowing in one or another river. Thus, they can divert water from the Rhine into the Ijssel river. Or, from the Maas into the  Rhine/Maas rivers.  And finally, if even this is not enough,  they have the system of “green rivers”, where excess water could  be diverted onto green lakes.

One Response to “American Midwest Floods and some possible tips from the Dutch experience”

  1. Brilliant!

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