The Netherlands is a land of rivers. The rivers have been tamed, but the physical processes in the water have free rein. What effects do these processes have in the long term?

Nearly all the Dutch rivers are regulated by dykes, which is not to say that the dynamics in the rivers and their flood plains are gone. After high water, the river bed has changed and sediment has been deposited in the flood plains. Other processes are slower, such as adapting to rising sea levels and changes in discharge due to climate change. What are the consequences of those adaptations? How can we respond? Answers to these questions require a better understanding of the behaviour of rivers in the long term.

Image of a dyke with water on both sides
Image: ©Flip Franssen / Hollandse Hoogte

The challenge is to guarantee that the Dutch river system remains stable for a long period of time (50-150 years). Although safety comes first, shipping and nature should also be able to benefit optimally from the rivers. The knowledge acquired about how rivers behave will lead to sustainable managers. These measures respond optimally to the natural behaviour of the rivers – building with nature – and have the smallest possible adverse effects in the long term.

The research plan taking up these challenges comprises seven clusters: long-term river response; down-stream rivers; sediment budget; river ecosystems; heterogeneity and dynamics of subsoil; dune dynamics and sorting; fundamental modelling. The Rivers research track links up with various national and international studies, such as the Interreg programme ‘Building With Nature’, which has made an inventory of examples of Building with Nature and is evaluating their success factors, and the Horizon 2020 programme ‘DANUBIUS-RI’, a large-scale European centre for advanced research into river and sea systems.

If you would like to know more about Rivers, please feel free to contact Ralph Schielen or Hans Middelkoop.