The Netherlands constantly has to battle against the threat of flooding from the ocean and rivers as a vast area of its land is below sea level. However, the last major flood was way back in 1953. The success of water management in Netherlands is largely rooted in careful spatial planning and ‘building with nature’ to achieve a resilient flood-proof landscape. The concept of Building with Nature was invented by the the Dutch water authority, Rijkswaterstaat, and several other research institutes and consultancy agencies. The concept basically develops waterworks by integrating infrastructure, nature and society for sustainable water management solutions. Working with nature, rather than against it, is seen as being more efficient and less costly. One such example is giving room to the river “ruimte voor de rivier“. During peak discharges, usually in winter and spring, the river has special designated areas along its banks where water can be stored and transported. These so called uiterwaarden or flood plains in English are of low commercial values with almost no buildings being built on them. In this way, the (financial) damage the river can cause is minimal. During normal water levels, these areas are normally used for recreation and cattle grazing.
In the picture and clip below you can see the river Waal near Nijmegen which has been fed large amounts of rain and meltwater from Switzerland and Germany in recent weeks. Despite it looking rather serious, the situation is very much under control as the flood plains are compensating for the high water level. It shows that Building with Nature is the way to go!