Tag Archives: water control

Delta Works

Delta Works flood protection infrastructure

Our day was spent traveling to Deltapark Neeltje Jans to learn about the Delta Works projects. Deltapark Neeltje Jans is both a theme park and a Delta Works educational center. Throughout the Netherlands’ history, they have benefited from being in close proximity to the sea, but the sea has also been a great source of danger. Since a large portion of the Netherlands lies below sea level, the country has had to create innovative systems to protect from flooding. The Delta Works are the largest flood protection system in the world and include storm surge barrier, dikes, dams and sluice gates.

This exhibit was located in the Delta Expo and is an overview of water infrastructure constructed from the Delta Works projects.

After we arrived, we explored the Delta Experience. The Delta Experience is a lively visual that took us back to the night of January 31,1953 where we witnessed the devastation that occurred during the North Sea Flood of 1953. During this flood, seawater breached the dikes destroying homes, roads, telephone lines, and sweeping away many people and livestock. This visual gave us a glimpse at what that night was like for those affected as well as educating us about how the Dutch responded.

A small scale replica of the Eastern storm surge barrier.

After the Delta Experience, our group watched a brief film that provided further information about the systems the Netherlands implemented to protect from flooding. In response to the traumatic flood of 1953, the government initiated the Delta projects to provide security from the water. We learned that they began construction with smaller dams first in order to get a better understanding of the building process and to gain the experience to construct the larger projects. Some of the techniques used during construction were borrowed from the military such as the use of caissons, which had been used for quick formation of artificial harbors. They also created new techniques such as using mats to protect the seafloor from being eroded.

The location we were visiting was the Easter Scheldt, and it was considered to be a complex area of the Delta Works projects due to the large amount of water flowing in and out with the tide. Because this area is an estuary, it provides habitat and resources for numerous species. Debate began over whether or not the Eastern Scheldt would be sealed off or remain tidal, but they finally decided on a storm surge barrier that would allow water to flow in and out. I thought this was very interesting because the health of the environment was considered during this project, and many times decisions are made without thinking about how it could cause adverse effects in other areas.

Sea level markers located on the storm surge barrier. The bottom marker is 3m above average sea level and the gates will close when water is predicted reach this mark or higher. The top mark is where the water levels were during the Flood of 1953.

One of the most exciting parts of our day was actually getting to visit the storm surge barrier. I had seen images of the barrier, but it was impressive to see in person. The storm surge barrier was completed in 1986. The barrier closes whenever sea level are predicted to be 3 meters or higher. Water level forecasts are determined from a constant supply of data coming from weather and water monitoring systems on land and out at sea. This data is then used in computer simulations to predict tide levels 10 hours in advance. Decision makers can make the call to close the gates when they receive these predictions, but the gates are also capable of closing by themselves incase of an emergency. They had a museum in the interior of the storm surge barrier that provided us with information as we moved through the facility.

Students walking through the storm surge barrier. The black gate on the left closes when sea levels are expected to be 3m or higher.

This was the second piece of large-scale flood protection infrastructure that we had visited on our trip in the Netherlands; several days before, our group visited the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier. They have taken aggressive steps to combat flooding and have done so in a proactive way, which is important because this issue will only continue to worsen as sea level continues to rise. This is very important as the rest of the world turns to the Netherlands to learn how to implement water management infrastructure. The United States has already felt the affects of climate change with storms like Hurricane Sandy or with urban flooding in Miami. As the climate continues to warm, sea level will rise and storms will become more unpredictable and cities need to be prepared to manage the water that will accompany.

Water flowing through the storm surge barrier. This is important to ensure that water can flow through the gate to preserve the ecology of the area.

-Stephen Lapp

Water, Wind, and Transportation

Storm Surge Barriers and Biking Infrastructure Experienced First-Hand

Today, our teacher and Hague enthusiast, Cor Rademaker, indulged us with over 70 km of biking (yes, we mapped it) between the city and Dutch countryside, exposing Holland’s hidden gems and sustainable qualities. We traveled to Schipluiden and Maasland to experience the expansive biking infrastructure before stopping at the Hoek Van Holland to learn about storm surge protection.

Biking infrastructure extends all along the beach, cutting through the dunes to make bike travel easy and accessible.
Biking infrastructure outside the city is well marked and easily navigable.

Our tour began heading out of town towards the smallest village in The Netherlands, ‘T Woudt. On our way, we paused to discuss the social housing within The Hague and how it is situated near the tramline, making it workable for those without cars. Because public transit is so common here, there seems to be much less of a stigma associated with social housing than in the US. Cor informed us that 70 percent of new housing built in the Hague is dedicated to social housing. Once we got out of the city, we entered cow country. We learned that cows are an important part of the Dutch agricultural economy since most crops struggle to grow in the brackish water that lines the fields. Across the bike path from the cows there were greenhouses that seemed to be go on forever. These greenhouses were used to grow grapes for wine production. After a quick stop at Holland’s smallest village, we stopped at a rural café to regain the feeling in our legs before heading back out to check out Schipluiden and Maasland, two small towns. Our main stop for today was to visit the Maeslant Barrier Rotterdam, a storm surge barrier. After biking six and half kilometers against the wind, we made it to the top of a hill overlooking the barrier. The barrier is a structure so big that it takes four years and over 300,000 liters to paint. Completed in 1997 and costing over 660,000 Euro, the Maeslant Barrier was designed to protect the city of Zuid-Holland by taking the full brunt of flooding from the sea. In order to do this the structure must be able to sense its surroundings and act quickly. Because it takes around 30 minutes for the arms to close, the system relies heavily on sensor technology and is completely computerized (even if we went extinct the gates would still close). Among other things, the sensors detect changes in sea level rise, wind speed, and wind direction. Once the water gets to three meters above sea level, the computer sends out a message to the city alerting the ships that the gate will soon be closing. To make sure that the system is still functioning, the barrier is tested once a year and is expected to be needed once every ten years, although it may be more frequent in the future due to climate change. The structure is completely self-sufficient and self-protecting. The structure is powered by its own power plant. In fact, there is a power plant built for each arm. In the case that one was to fail, there is a wire that runs under the river to provide power to the other. If both were to fail, there is a diesel engine that can be used to power both arms, but this takes more time to close the arms. The structure protects itself from damage by not closing completely. When the gates are fully closed, there is an 80 cm gap between the arms to allow for the inevitable movement during heavy storms. Water moves much more rapidly through the arms once closed because there is a much smaller space for water to move. This could serve as a source of energy in the future, but the tour guide said that they were not there yet with the necessary technology. Although grueling, the day was very informative. Besides learning about storm management in The Netherlands, it was interesting to see just how quick and easy it was to get out of the city via bike. There are so many bike paths, even in places you wouldn’t expect (like the countryside) that truly make not having a car easy. The city is planned around biking infrastructure, making it not only safer for bikers but also more sustainable.

Greenhouses are an important part of the Netherlands crop production. These greenhouses are growing grapes for year-round wine production.
With arms as long as the Eiffel Tower is high, the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier protects the citizens of Holland from experiencing massive flooding during extreme weather. Plus, it is one of the wonders of the modern world!
The building behind this group of students is a 100% sustainable town hall building. The thatch roof serves as an excellent insulator!

-Megan Gwynn