As global warming melts the polar ice caps we are witnessing a human caused increase in sea level. The city of Rotterdam is on the front lines of holding back this tidal increase and they have designed some nifty ways to protect the people that live in the city from the encroaching waves. They are using a rive that flow through the city to act as a giant sponge to absorb any influx of water from storms, this will contain and slow the water from entering parts of the city with lots of people or commerce. It’s a nature-friendly way to deal with a human caused problem.
A €2.3bn “Room for the River” project – making floodplains at more than 30 locations on four rivers – is credited with saving the country from the worst flooding this year. The national delta programme is investing in action to guard until 2050, and a multi-billion euro flood protection programme (HWPB) involves 100 projects to strengthen kilometres of dykes, without which, says Rijkswaterstaat infrastructure organisation, 60% of the country would regularly be under water.
But in cities, too, water protection must meet urban design to create an attractive, adaptive city, says Arnoud Molenaar, Rotterdam’s chief resilience officer. A vast amount of work has been going on, and the city has built water squares, green and blue roofs and a 2km-long railway viaduct rooftop park. The water squares, also designed by De Urbanisten, are, very simply, built in overflow areas – when there is too much rainwater they fill up, and then slowly drain away so that the storm drains are not overwhelmed. And when the water has gone, they become public spaces again.