Flood mitigation, Dutch style

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Going With The Flow – article in NYTimes looks at a new way the Dutch are dealing with regular flooding and what lessons it might hold for the U.S. after Hurricane Sandy.  Instead of fighting to keep the water out, the Netherlands is now experimenting with controlled flooding, what they call Room for the River.


They are, by temperament, almost as allergic as Americans to top-down programs that impinge on personal and property rights; but water safety trumps pretty much every other priority in a country where 60 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is produced below sea level. Protecting the country from storms and floods isn’t treated here merely as a burden or a political football but as an economic and architectural opportunity.

The local buzzword is “multifunctional.” The Dutch are putting retail and offices on top of new dikes, designing public squares and garages to double as catch basins for rain and floodwater, constructing floating houses and reservoirs that create recreational opportunities.

An example of working with nature rather than fighting it is the waterfront development at Scheveningen designed by Manuel de Sola-Morales. (Here’s a 32-p PDF on the proposed project, in Dutch; and a photo of what is presumably a finished portion of Sola-Morales’ project.)

The article also tells the unusual story of cooperation between the Dutch government and farmers displaced by one of the Room for the River projects.

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For more, check out the book Sweet & Salt: Water and the Dutch by Tracy Metz.  She spoke back in September at SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco.  Thanks, Jim!

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