Water management depends on hard science and meticulous study. Americans throw around phrases like once-in-a-century storm. The Dutch, with a knowledge of water, tides and floods honed by painful experience, can calculate to the centimeter — and the Dutch government legislates accordingly — exactly how high or low to position hundreds of dikes along rivers and other waterways to anticipate storms they estimate will occur once every 25 years, or every 1,000 years, or every 10,000.
And now the evidence is leading them to undertake what may seem, at first blush, a counterintuitive approach, a kind of about-face: The Dutch are starting to let the water in. They are contriving to live with nature, rather than fight (what will inevitably be, they have come to realize) a losing battle.
Why? The reality of rising seas and rivers leaves no choice. Sea barriers sufficed half a century ago; but they’re disruptive to the ecology and are built only so high, while the waters keep rising. American officials who now tout sea gates as the one-stop-shopping solution to protect Lower Manhattan should take notice. In lieu of flood control the new philosophy in the Netherlands is controlled flooding.
These floods claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. They forever changed our landscape. And they left a potent legacy in Dutch DNA: strengthen the dikes, “fight” the water, manipulate the landscape. The saying that “while God created the earth, the Dutch created the Netherlands” has more than a kernel of truth to it.
Type of Partnership: Win-Neutral for Public and Planet
Letting the water in clearly has benefited the Public, but removing environmentally damaging man-made sea barriers simply neutralizes and removes harm on the Planet without necessarily actively or intentionally enriching it.