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Professional Development

water

the netherlands

ABOUT

The Netherlands is world renowned for taming the North Sea waters that once inundated their lands. This is something for which the Dutch are quite proud— an official Dutch website notes that 70% of its population lives below sea level.

To protect themselves against the dangers of flooding, and to develop new land for settlement and agriculture, the Dutch have built an elaborate system of dikes and drainage mechanisms. The earliest forms of water management came about in the 12th century as the Dutch reclaimed, or drained and elevated, land covered by water

However, Dutch thinking about living with water has evolved in recent decades. In 1953, a storm flooded the country, killing more than 1,800 people. This led to a massive building boom, the Delta Works, which created barriers, dams, dikes, levees and two of the world's largest storm surge barriers.

But over time—and after a series of floods in 1993 and 1995—the Dutch realized raising the walls to fight against the inevitable invasion of water wasn't a solution. So, they moved on to focusing on water systems and ways to store the water from flooding or slow its discharge into rivers. The country created a Room for the River program to give rivers more space to flood. Next, they began working with nature, letting the water in and creating lakes, garages and parks that transform into emergency reservoirs during flooding.