From the Netherlands to the US, the engineering works that hold water’s fury at bay

Water management plants are needed to avoid the devastating effects of floods

On January 31, 1953, at first light, a terrible flood devastated the Netherlands, killing 1,800 people and displacing 72,000 others, in a natural disaster that marked the country that lives right along the North Sea with 451 kms of coast.

That flood, which also caused very serious damages to the economy, became however a turning point in the history of the Netherlands, which from that moment launched a plan to protect their environment from floods and the power of the sea with investments and ambitious projects that still today allow the country to manage optimally its waters.

Over the years, a massive flood protection system was built, obtained with the realization of the Delta Works, that is, three locks, six dams, four sea barriers, and a network of plants that allow the country to manage water during droughts and to constantly monitor the quality of water.

The Delta Program looks to 2050

The Delta program, sustained by the Rijkswaterstaat, the institution created by the Infrastructure ministry to monitor and manage water, maintains a longterm outlook and today is setting goals for 2050, the date by which the Netherlands aims to be carbon neutral, that is to reduce to zero emissions that damage the environment. The program envisages investments on three fronts: the management of flood risk, by renovating dams, barriers and controlling the coast; managing the drinking water supply by adding plants that make sea water potable; and the redesigning of the countryside to face weather shocks, like droughts and floods. Thus sustainability and water management meet through programs that aim to give value to water and make its use circular. The Hydraloop project, one of several launched in the last few years, aims to recover 85% of domestic use water, treat it and reuse it for other purposes, such as irrigating gardens, cleaning, or filling pools. The Vitens company, one of the firms charged with managing drinking water in the country, has begun a process with which it recovers underground water and extracts calcium, iron and other substances that are later used for other purposes. The synergy between private companies, universities, research centers and the state are highly developed and aim to find ever more innovative solutions to manage water as well as possible, turning a risk into a resource and a great opportunity.

From Rotterdam to Washington D.C., water management is a global issue

As the massive damages caused by the floods that have hit Emilia-Romagna in Italy in the last few weeks have shown, building innovative and efficient water management systems is a tool that allows to ensure the safety of people and the economy. The Netherlands are a case study for this.  The city of Rotterdam has adopted a rain water management system that turns them into something valuable. Benthemplein square has been designed to turn into a water storage basin when it rains, connected to a collection system, so that when it rains a lot it reduces the pressure on the sewers and it stores water to be used during droughts. Systems of this nature, and even more sophisticated, are today being built in many cities around the world as they face climate change. The Webuild group is active in this sector, building the Northeast Boundary Tunnel (NEBT) in Washington D.C., an 8 kms long tunnel that will boost the city’s sewers system thus reducing the frequency, force and impact of flooding. NEBT will reduce by 98% the volume of untreated water that ends up in the Anacostia river. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Webuild realized another tunnel as part of the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel project, which aims to construct a system of combined tunnels to manage untreated water from the city and their flow to rivers. All these are essential works to reduce pollution, manage water resources in the best way, and protect the live of citizens at the same time.