Unite education, research and practice in innovative projects that stand out for interdisciplinary leadership

Rhine and Meuse
Rhine and Meuse: adapting to a changing climate

Preluded by its name, the command area of the Water Board Rijn en IJssel is demarcated by the river Rhine to the south and the river IJssel to its west. Aeolian sand deposits stemming from the last ice age covered the undulating landscape witch rises from 7 m +NAP near the river IJssel to 50 +NAP near the border with Germany in the east. Numerous smaller rivers and streams dissect the area. While bordering the rivers IJssel and Rhine, the area largely relies on local water resources from precipitation and some transboundary inflow of surface water from Germany via the Oude IJssel, Berkel, and Slinge.  Groundwater inflow is small and limited to some seepage flow from the Veluwe Massive that manages to reach the area from the opposite the river IJssel.

After three successive years of extreme low summer precipitation, water boards and water utilities call for action. Delta Futures lab takes on this challenges. The lab starts a collaborative project with the Water board Rijn and IJssel to invent, design and evaluate unorthodox measures and develop adaptation pathways for Rijn and Ijssel to an arid climate.

Your involvement

The Chair of Water board Rhine and IJssel and with him other water boards and water utilities in the higher mostly sandy areas in the east of the Netherlands call for unorthodox strategies to adapt to future climate. They also came up with some unorthodox plans:  water diversion from the river Rhine, a water storage reservoir near the German border, stopping seepage flow to the River IJssel and others. These unorthodox strategies need to be designed and evaluated on their technical, financial and societal feasibility. Furthermore they need to be complemented with even more unorthodox spatial redesigns addressing land use change, residential overflow from the sea-level rise threatened low lands of The Netherlands, irrigated agriculture, and others. The Delta Futures lab Rijn and IJssel team designs and researches unorthodox solutions and invents alternative strategies. The research program aims to integrate contributions from individual thesis projects into adaptations pathways for Rijn and IJssel and develop a toolbox and workflow for similar regions in the Netherlands and globally. Model based, expert, and hybrid approaches for pathway development will be used. Kees-Jan Leuverink of the Water Boards Rijn and IJssel coaches the team. He is supported by SWECO through an internal innovation project. Rijkswaterstaat, diverse consultant offices, and local and regional governments support for specific research projects.



Example project Descriptions

1.    Water diversions and storage
Water boards and utilities in the Rhine and IJssel area have suggested infrastructure projects that focus on increasing water resource through water diversion or regional water storage. Historically such projects in the Netherland do not deliver sufficient return on investments. Under climate change, conclusions might however be different. This research designs, evaluates and compares adaptation of Rhine and IJssel to an arid climate through developing water resources.


2.    Model based adaptation pathways for Rhine and IJssel
In this research you develop (the architecture of) a fast and integrated model to support model based development of adaptation pathways using Exploratory Modelling and Analysis (EMA) workbench. Conceptually the model will be rooted in the XLRM-model. Its implementation will be multi-formalism, combining hydrological, agent based, and GIS platforms. The model needs to be flexible, able to accommodate the adaptation strategies develop in other projects of the Rhine and IJssel program and last but not least simulate 100 years in under 2 minutes on a single workstation. A SWECO innovation project supports this research.


3.    Minimizing seepage flow to the river IJssel
The Rhine and IJssel area is losing an unknown amount of its groundwater resources through drainage to the IJssel River. This amount is increasing because of the lowering of the riverbed trough erosion as consequences of historic river normalisations. This project researches the current and future drainage to the IJssel River and develops technical, spatial or hybrid interventions and contingent policy arrangements to reduce or use the seepage flow.


4.    Dynamic Adaptive Ecosystem Pathways
Climate change will soon render conservation-oriented approaches in ecosystem management obsolete. Climate change constitute a threat for, and offers opportunities for ecosystem development in the Rhine and IJssel area. To guide adaptation under uncertain climate change, Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways are successfully applied. This approach holds a promise for ecosystem adaptation. In this research, you apply the dynamic adaptive policy pathways approach to the adaptation of ecosystems under climate change. The approach can be studies from both an ecological and a policy perspective.


5.    Drought indicators for Rhine and IJssel
Anticipatory drought management is advanced to improve water management under conditions of drought. Recent research pointed at the relevance of region specific drought indicators in support of such a management strategy. The current focus on drought propagation in the water system needs to be complemented with indicators focussing on the consequences of drought for the functions of the water systems and on indicators that enable anticipatory actions by individual stakeholders. In this research, you develop a comprehensive set of drought indicators that address the system, its functions and its stakeholders in Rhine and IJssel that effectively support anticipatory drought management. The RWS water distribution and shortage advisor supports this project.


6.    Transformative spatial design
Adaptation to an arid climate might induce or require a spatial transformation of the Rijn and IJssel area. More residential areas, new economic activities, accommodation of irrigated agriculture, more room for the rivers and water storage. Spatial designs however not only offer designs in reaction to problems. They can also act as triggers for “transformation to climate change”. Design enables dealing with complexity by creating solutions and defining problems at  the same time. In this project you use research by design to develop new spatial futures for Rhine and IJssel  that increase the adaptive capacity of the region.