IABR–Drought in the DeltaJourney to the Center of the Earth
In the IABR Atelier Drought in the Delta, Studio Marco Vermeulen presents building blocks for a robust freshwater strategy. The use of the surface and subsurface of the Dutch Delta landscape is becoming increasingly intensive, with new transitions such as renewable energy, sustainable food production and an increased urbanization adding to this space scarcity. A robust fresh water strategy will need to react to these transitions, an integrated approach of different functions is essential. The results of this research by design project have been visualized in the form of two cross-sections of the Dutch delta , the delta in 2020 and in 2050 , explaining the interdependence above and below the surface and the benefits that arise when design with both of them.
The dry delta
The Dutch delta is not designed to retain water. Not yet. This requires a change in thinking and acting: from a naturally wet delta that must drain its water as quickly as possible to keep our feet dry, we must move to a delta that can retain fresh water in order to have access to it when we need it. It is a new challenge that the IABR – Atelier Drought in the Delta is portraying through design research.
The Dutch delta is not designed to retain water. Not yet.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
This Atelier highlights ten sub-areas. For each subsystem, a vision has been outlined in which measures to increase the water buffering capacity serve as leverage for other transition tasks. This methodology of combining above and sub ground solutions in one systematic approach also helps
local governments and provinces to work on their water assignments. An attractive future image of the Netherlands with a wide variety of landscapes emerges. Especially if we make good international agreements about water distribution in the Rhine, Maas and Scheldt catchment areas.
The results of this research by design project have been visualized in the form of two cross-sections of the Dutch delta, the delta in 2020 and in 2050. We look towards Germany, France and Belgium, upstream along the Rhine, Maas and Scheldt - in the distance we see the Alps. The first section shows how our delta now functions and which problems have arisen due to climate change. In the second, we see what the potential building blocks for a new, common freshwater strategy yield, in conjunction with other transition tasks, such as energy transition, food production and urbanization.
With the cross section we look towards Germany, France and Belgium, upstream along the Rhine, Muese and Scheldt - in the distance we see the Alps.
The new freshwater level
An attractive landscape will arise that is formed by taking both the sub- and the top soil into account, creating a robust freshwater level.
Building blocks for a robust freshwater strategy
In the lower parts of the delta, the pressure on space and flood risk management are often greater. Here, agriculture and greenhouse horticulture alternate with cities and industry. Many freshwater measures here will be underground and of a more technical nature. Industry, the city and agriculture can make use of each other's purified residual water as much as possible; fresh water can then remain underground. Increasing and widening the dune landscape means extra resistance to salt water seepage. Freshwater measures will also become much more visible in the city. Landscapes of polder roofs, sponge and retention parks will buffer rainwater and at the same time provide coolness in the summer. The old meanders of the major rivers, together with levee improvements and river widening, will be used in the freshwater system, so that the river landscape in 2050 will be much more dynamic than it is now and sufficient water will remain available when necessary. In the future, agriculture will not only feed people, but also the soil. A fertile soil retains rainwater better during dry periods. Nature on the sandy soils in the higher parts Netherlands will be transformed from evaporating coniferous forest to an open infiltration landscape. An attractive landscape is created with large differences in height, streams and deciduous forests. Spruces make way for oak, birch and beech so that much less groundwater evaporates and there is ecological and spatial diversity. Streams meander again and the return of watermill landscapes ensures that surface water has time to replenish the groundwater. A landscape is formed that has been built up from both the bottom and the top soil with a robust 'new freshwater level.
Large-scale irrigation of agricultural land means that the concentration of salt in the soil of these delta regions is increasing. The further salinization of coastal areas, where almost half of the world's population lives, exacerbates this problem. Reservoirs all over the world are drying up, aquifers (underground water layers) are being drained but not sufficiently replenished. One billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Where water management is not good, rationing and the fight for fresh water have already begun. The good news is that the problems of the deltas, our own Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta to the Mekong Delta, the Sundarban Delta to the Mississippi Delta, are similar. What mainly differs are the levels of scale of the problem and the extent to which integrated water management takes place. In many places, the complex overview of the relationship between all transition tasks is lacking, so that opportunities remain underused. Potential and conscious management of the subsurface is also usually a forgotten factor. Lessons we learn from working on our own delta can be applied in deltas around the world. And vice versa: if we learn from each other openly and constructively, the water challenge can be used worldwide as a lever, as an opportunity to develop deltas in a resilient and sustainable way.
ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse, ir. Joost van der Waal
in cooperation with
Martin Grootenboer, Sara Orfali
Jolanda van Dinteren, Suzanne Tietema
Johanna Fuhler, Vivian Ammerlaan
Esther van Baaren, Deltares
Ruud Bartholomeus, KWR
Rob Bouman, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management
Ron Franken, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Cees van de Guchte, Deltares
Karla Niggebrugge, Province Noord-Brabant
Klaasjan Raat, KWR
Roelof Stuurman, Deltares
Jip Welkers, Vitens
Research by design