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Sixty-five years ago, major floods engulfed large parts of the Netherlands during a disastrous winter storm. To protect the country against another event on this scale, the Dutch developed the Delta Works. Now that the global climate is changing and water levels are rising, water management and flood protection are hot topics again.

the tide
the tide
Turning 
Vision

Beyond the
Delta Works

the tide
Turning 
Vision

A ‘perfect’
storm

Watersnood
Museum

Sixty-five years ago, major floods engulfed large parts of the Netherlands during a disastrous winter storm. To protect the country against another event on this scale, the Dutch developed the Delta Works. Now that the global climate is changing and water levels are rising, water management and flood protection are hot topics again.

the tide
Turning 
Vision

Construction of the Delta Works started in the year following the North Sea flood of 1953. The massive project, with 13 flood defences, was completed in 1997. Three locks, six dams and four storm surge barriers – a total of 700 kilometres of flood defences – form the Delta Works. The International Federation of Engineers calls it the most prestigious civil engineering works in the world. But as sound and prestigious as the Delta Works are, the time has come for a new Delta Plan that will keep the Netherlands dry far into the future. ‘Our challenge is to make our country water-robust and climate-proof,’ says Michèle Blom, Director General at Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Highways and Waterways Agency). ‘We’re doing that in cooperation with the market, research institutes, water boards and other partners. More than 1,100 kilometres of dyke and 256 locks and pumping stations will need to be reinforced and improved by as early as 2028. Rijkswaterstaat is seeking out and developing affordable and innovative methods to achieve this.’ It’s also time for awareness-raising across Dutch society, according to Michèle. ‘We Dutch must get back to being aware of where we live with respect to the water. Rijkswaterstaat is eager to show what our country is doing about flood protection. The Delta Works are and will remain iconic in that regard.’

A ‘perfect’ storm
The science behind climate change

‘In the early morning of 1 February 1953, a rare combination of high spring tides, storm surge, high winds and very large waves caused severe flooding in the Netherlands and United Kingdom,’ explains Peter Kuipers Munneke, Climate Researcher at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) and meteorologist for the Dutch broadcasting organisation NOS. ‘Although the circumstances leading to this flood were extraordinary, extreme weather events are becoming more common and their impact is growing. Global warming is another risk factor. To gain a better understanding of these hazards, IMAU studies the earth’s climate system, including oceans, atmosphere and cryosphere.’ Peter continues: ‘We aim to provide answers to questions like: how will the climate evolve, in what time frame, what are the implications for mankind and, most importantly, how can we prevent climate change from happening catastrophically fast?’

Peter Kuipers Munneke
Climate Researcher and Meteorologist

Beyond the Delta Works
Joining forces for tomorrow's flood defences

Michèle Blom
Director General at Rijkswaterstaat 

Watersnood Museum
Remember, learn and look ahead 

‘As one of our partners, Van Oord helps keep the history of the Dutch battle against water alive,’ explains Siemco Louwerse, Director of the Watersnood Museum. ‘The museum houses a unique collection about the tragic flood of 1953 and the period of reconstruction thereafter. The stories of the survivors still make a deep impression on people today. The devastating impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma shows that flood protection remains a relevant topic. That’s why the museum is not only a place to remember, but also a place to learn and to look ahead.’ Siemco continues: ‘Van Oord recently sponsored a new, futuristic exhibition that illustrates innovations and systems invented to tackle flooding around the world. We hope the exhibition makes visitors aware of water management and all that can be done to prevent flooding.’

Siemco Louwerse
Director of the Watersnood Museum

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