2B are lucky enough to know an eminent Dutch sustainable water management expert, who also arranges professional tours of projects. Bill had met Marnix de Vriend a couple of years ago at a conference on water management in Hull, so when we went over for the Floriade we emailed him to ask for ideas of interesting places to visit in Holland. Marnix, with great generousity, arranged for us to go on a whistlestop tour of Holland and some of his projects.
SuDS proven to work at all scales
Our journey focused on sustainable drainage (SuDS) and working with natural processes (WWNP) to manage water effectively. We took in projects of differing scales – from disconnected downpipes in the small village of Beek, to a huge dyke relocation in the city of Nijmegen that will allow space for the River Waal (the Rhine in Germany) to overflow safely in future years. It was a real treat that at each of our locations Marnix arranged for us to meet local people involved in the project.
Beek was a wonderful example of community ownership and pride in the environment. The project mainly comprised the disconnection of downpipes and other surface water sources from the main sewers. This allows the village to cope with storm events, by providing additional water storage capacity, and by preventing overflow of foul sewers – two of many benefits of sustainable drainage systems.
The residents of Beek have taken action, their homes don’t flood any longer, and they have a more beautiful town, with rills and gravity-fed water features. (Beek is also proud to be in the mountainous area of Holland – some areas are 19m above sea level!)
Disconnected downpipes outside each house feed into gullies along the side of the road. Every house in the chain had to agree to be involved, or the system as a whole would fail
We also visited the massive Dyke relocation project on the River Waal (the Rhine in Germany) at Nijmegen, site of the “Bridge Too Far” drama from WW2. This immensely ambitious project has engaged the entire city to adopt a new strategy. The plan recognises the need to make space for water, due to an increasing likelihood of future flooding events along the River. Whilst some homes are being displaced, the plan involves new ways of bringing communities together. It invests in creating better places, which respect the power of the water and enable communities to live successfully alongside the River.
Marnix and his contacts were extremely welcome guides. People who are involved in the projects can explain the problems they have overcome, and the reasons for the decisions they have taken.
The Dutch think we are strange
It was interesting to see how a different country’s politics and priorities mean that their society’s attitude to SuDS is quite different to ours. Water is very much at the front of their minds, and they think we are rather backward when they hear that we are still cleaning up after floods every time, rather than preventing them. We can’t help but agree!
Adapted from a post originally published on 19th October 2012 for 2B Landscape Consultancy Ltd