International Celebration of World Water Day (WWD)

The Netherlands was host country for the international celebration of World Water Day (WWD). This year the event highlights water cooperation, and this theme was also the subject of the recent so-called Water Mission that resulted in signing up a collaboration agreement between the USA and The Netherlands.

Check also this video on 2018 World Water Day (March 18, 2018):

Shaun Donovan who chaired President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and Melanie Schultz, the former Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Environment, agreed to share knowledge and best practices. Donovan said. “The Dutch are no strangers to the forces of nature and I’m certain we can benefit from their experience in disaster mitigation, infrastructure management and a variety of approaches to sustainable community development and planning”.

Donovan is coordinating the rebuilding of areas in New York and New Jersey that were hit by Superstorm Sandy e few years way back and his task is hugely complex.

Many Dutch companies would welcome the opportunity to share their knowledge and collaborate with American firms on creating sustainable solutions that will protect the East Coast from the effects of climate change. We talked with the key people from well-known Dutch water management companies that have already been cooperating with American government agencies. They all are aware of the key role of Brand Management Platforms to stimulate their business and make their expertise known on a worldwide scale.


In the context of water management during the past decades, Dutch textile technology company TenCate frequently used geotextile solutions to protect beaches and the hinterland against erosion by waves during storms and hurricanes. Jaap de Carpentier Wolf, the spokesman for TenCate, explains: “TenCate Geotube technology offers so-called ‘dune dikes” made of geotextile.

In 2009, these textile containers were installed over long stretches of coastline in, among other places, Ocean City, New Jersey, and they recently protected the city from the worst during superstorm Sand. Already years ago, similar protection had been installed at the coastline of New Orleans and many other U.S. coastal areas where hurricanes earlier brought destruction”.

TenCate geosynthetics materials were invented in the 50s and 60s to function as a stable foundation for the famous Delta Works in the Dutch provinces of Zeeland and South Holland. Nowadays many types of geotextiles are being used as an integral part of engineering works such as dikes and breakwaters. This way geotextiles generate durable erosion control.

TenCate Geotube containers can be installed easily and quickly underneath or along the water surface, even when local conditions are difficult. Once put in place, this geotextile will offer protection for decades. The system is cost-effective and is a sustainable and environmentally conscious solution because local silt and sand can be (re)used.

Therefore it is not necessary to transport stones and rocks or truckloads of cement over great distances. For many years TenCate has been present worldwide with geotextiles for both water management and infrastructural projects, says Jaap de Carpentier Wolf. The products and solutions come from Europe, Asia, and North America. “Especially in the United States, TenCate can play a decisive role, because our American colleagues know everything about the complex U.S. procurement rules and local conditions,” he continues.


Piet Dircke, global director for water management at ARCADIS, says his company has been active in the USA for many years. Being an American firm as well, one of Arcadis’ bigger clients worldwide is the municipality of New York, so they understand how complex the situation of creating protection for New York is.

A few years ago he and his team presented a conceptual design of a navigable storm surge barrier in the Verrazano Narrows between Long Island and Staten Island as part of an integrated flood protection plan for the Hudson Bay.

Clearly, the time was not right, but he hopes that now his American and Dutch team will participate in creating such an integrated solution for New York, though he has no doubts that the competition will be tough. America has great engineers and science universities too, so we need to be agile, he says.


Peter van der Kolk, innovation manager at Fugro, says that they have delivered system analyses to the American government for years. Together with some American parties, the company investigated over 550 km of dikes a few years ago and made geotechnical investigations for the design and preparation of levees in the New Orleans area. The company does this kind of studies all over the world.

Fugro is well-known for their innovative remote sensing technologies, including LiDAR, which allow them to map geometry and monitor dike movements and subsidence.
Peter van der Kolk is also associate of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), a public-private network coalition of Dutch engineering firms, builders, dredging companies, research institutions, civil society, and government. The goal of NWP is to promote Dutch water industry solutions abroad. Check also this post on revolutionary technology development.

Peter says the Dutch have so much to share. For example, not every country has an institution as Dutch Deltares. Deltares is an independent institute for applied research in the field of water, subsurface, and infrastructure and is a big help for many organizations. One of the principles in Dutch water management is collaboration within the ‘golden triangle’ (government, knowledge and private sector). Another issue is how the Dutch organized finances for land protection and flood safety. Regardless who wins the elections, the Delta Law guarantees for 100 years of funding for the Delta Works.

Royal HaskoningDHV

Mathijs van Ledden, Flood Risk Reduction expert at Royal HaskoningDHV. Royal HaskoningDHV advised the US Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They shared not only knowledge of the design and construction of dikes, but also strategic aspects. Among other contributions, the company developed a hurricane atlas for New Orleans that can determine the impact of an approaching hurricane. Within minutes the atlas tells exactly when, where and how hard a hurricane would hit thus making it very clean for New Orleans among other measures when to close the barriers.

Last year, New Orleans was hit by hurricane Isaac and this time, the city saw only relative damage though the hurricane was powerful and destructive and many people suffered. Without our efforts, however, the damage would have been so much worse. This is the best proof of the effectiveness of our work, says Mathijs, who moved to the USA to manage the Haskoning office in the USA during the New Orleans project.

When I asked Mathijs about possible similarities between the New Orleans project and New York he said: We never build a standard product, there is no “one size fits all” solution. The circumstances are different every time and customer requirements vary too.

Recently, HaskoningDHV became involved in the Sand Engine project that will use the power of ocean currents to gradually redistribute huge sand supplements and provide long-term fortification for eroding beaches and flood protection. This project is the next-generation hydraulic engineering approach. The sand engine may be used for inspiration purposes/ as a starting point for discussions continue Mathijs, but you need to figure out how this fits for the New Jersey coastline. There is no one size fits all and that also holds for the sand engine.


Jaap Kwadijk, Scientific Director at Deltares, says that representations from many countries including the US visit the institute to learn from their knowledge. Deltares is an independent institute for delta technology that bridges the gap between science and commercial applications. Deltares expertise allows Dutch companies to compete on an international level and to continue offering innovative solutions related to water management.

Moreover, the institute developed an open shell flood forecasting system (Delft FEWS), software that is used internationally by, for example, the Environment Agency for England and Wales and the US National Weather Service.

Jaap, who participated in the roundtable discussions during the Water Mission New York, says that the Netherlands has indeed a lot to share about fighting the effects of climate change, but there also is a lot to be learned from the American practices. The Netherlands, for example, have not experienced disaster for the past sixty years and learning how to recover from it will be a valuable knowledge.

Dutch Water Design

DWD LANDSCAPE, Masterplan Swaneblake (Lola Landscape Architects)

Dutch Water Design is a consortium of 5 design firms that teamed up with specialized engineering firms and knowledge institutes for the integration of water management with urban and regional development. It’s not about aesthetics but about being a partner in finding solutions, and design can reveal new possibilities. An example is a Room for the River program, where designers came up with ideas for solving the problem of rising sea and river levels and show the possibilities, says  Matthijs Bouw, CEO of the One Architecture. He believes that the Dutch designers can help with communicating with many stakeholders and thus support the decision making process.


Still, an open question is how much the Dutch industry will be involved in rebuilding and developing solutions for the USA, but one thing I know for sure, the Dutch are real professionals when it comes to managing the power of water. If they would not have developed a highly sophisticated water defense system for their country in the past, a major part of the Netherlands would be under water by now.