Living with the Water

As concerns about recurrent flooding and sea level rise grow, Cities are looking for innovative solutions to protect their citizens and infrastructure. While some gray infrastructure solutions (such as flood walls and levees) exist, Hampton is looking to the guidance from those that are already dealing with these concerns – the Dutch. 

Why the Dutch? 

The Netherlands is a low-lying country whose economy and identity is directly related to the water. One-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and another third is at sea-level and subject to twice daily tidal flooding. The Netherlands is famous for its flood protection systems, which until recently have been purposed “to keep the water out.” 

In the 1990s, the Dutch began to recognize unintended impacts of those measures on their environments and cities. Additionally, they began to assess the effects of changing climate, sea level rise, subsidence, increased winter and spring river flows, summer drought, groundwater depletion, and salt water intrusion on their landscape, economy, and public finance. In response, a new water management paradigm has taken hold in the Netherlands, often described of “from resistance to accommodation,” or from “fighting the water at all costs” to “living with water where possible."

Life at sea level 

The “living with water” approach – which is also the hallmark of the New Orleans Urban Water Plan – strives to integrate flood risk mitigation, engineering, spatial planning, urban design, environmental goals, community amenity and economic development. Instead of figuring out how to “engineer” the water away, how can we allow the water to be a part of our community and benefit from it?