Flood Risk Management – The Dutch Way, with CIWEM Rivers and Coastal Group

Flooding, Management & Regulation, Natural Environment, Water Resources

Flood Risk Management – The Dutch Way, with CIWEM Rivers and Coastal Group

This guest blog has been written by Priscilla Haselhurst who is a Flood Risk Manager for Medway Council and a member of CIWEM’s Rivers and Coastal Group.

This autumn marked my first year as a committee member of the CIWEM Rivers and Coastal Group. The group provides a forum for professional and technical members of CIWEM who have an interest in influencing and implementing policy in the industry.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the group and we have been celebrating throughout the year; working with regional branches to deliver local events, hosting our fantastic annual study weekend which saw us visit Holland to learn about flood risk management the ‘Dutch’ way, and holding our 70th anniversary conference which reviewed flood and coastal risk management past, present and future. The study weekend to Delft, the Netherlands, in June was a career highlight for me.

Delft, famous for its hand painted blue and white pottery, is a quiet and peaceful city criss-crossed with its ubiquitous canal network. On our first day delegates enjoyed wide-ranging lectures. It was great to get an overview of the progress within different areas of the industry which we often lose sight of when focused on our day jobs. We finished the day sampling the local beers and cocktails, and enjoyed a walk to a wonderful working mill ‘Molen de Roos’ or ‘Windmill the Rose’ built in 1679. Though by this point I wasn't sure whether it was the windmill or I that had a lean, so it was time to retire to the hotel!

The second day we enjoyed some great site visits whilst soaking up the sun. Firstly we visited the Sand Motor ‘Zandmotor’ or ‘Sand Engine’, (or ‘Sand Monster’ as my mind keeps referring to it), an artificial peninsula built on the Delfland coast to improve coastal protection. It was created from 21.5 million cubic metres of sand extracted 10 km offshore and deposited along the coast to create a peninsula area of 128ha. New habitat and a space for leisure activities has also been created, helping to deliver multi-functional benefits which is at the core of any sustainable technical solution (even better when it is using natural processes to achieve that).

We then went on to visit Maeslantkering, which inspired a similar feeling of awe to that I experienced when I visited the Taj Mahal! The Maeslantkering, a storm surge barrier on the Nieuwe Waterweg, is a huge and beautiful piece of engineering. Controlled by a super computer, it automatically closes when Rotterdam is threatened by a flood and is one of the largest moving structures on Earth. Protecting a 360m long delta, each arm is as high as the Eiffel Tower and twice as heavy. The arms are moved via engines and their own 10m diameter ball joints. The barrier walls are a total height of 22 metres above sea level and provide a level of protection to 5m ‘Delta Height’ for the next 100 years, with the lowest protected area at 6.76m below sea level. The inlands are further protected by a double system of 7m dykes.

The weekend was a balanced mix of formal learning and sharing, site visits, networking, and opportunities to see different ways of managing flood risk, to use for inspiration back home. Many of the group stayed on to enjoy an extended city break in nearby Amsterdam. I did just that and enjoyed a full day in Amsterdam including a visit to the Rijksmuseum, which is home to the Ships stern and Royal Coat of Arms, or the ‘Royal Charles’, a souvenir gained during the Dutch Raid of Medway, my home town, in 1667. Before I went home, I made sure to pick up a large batch of Tony’s Chocolonely which I was introduced to during my visit and has since become my favourite chocolate!

The Rivers and Coastal Group study weekend was a great opportunity for learning, meeting other professionals in the industry and swapping ideas. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years now and there are still so many interesting things to learn about. As we move into another year, I’m really looking forward to working with the group. Do keep a look out for our events during 2020 which include a study weekend in Belfast, drop an email to events@ciwem.org to find out more!

Priscilla Haselhurst


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