Rijkswaterstaat to head EU project for optimising flood defences

Monday, March 20, 2017 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
Rijkswaterstaat have signed a partnership agreement with various countries in the North Sea region. The plan is to join forces and optimise the region’s flood defences.

This being, within the framework of the EU Interreg FAIR project - Flood defence infrastructure Asset management and Investment in Renovation, adaptation and maintenance. Project leader Remco Schrijver of Rijkswaterstaat spoke about the precise content of the project, and what it will mean for us.

”In the North Sea region, flood protection is a huge challenge. Flooding represents a major risk to life and the economies of countries along the North Sea coast.”

Throughout the region, maintenance and renovation work on the flood defence infrastructure, including dykes, locks, dams and pumping stations is overdue.The issue at hand is how to continue protecting the hinterland in the face of climate change and knowing that the available funding is insufficient.

”The key questions that have to be answered are therefore when, where, how and cost. The aim of FAIR is to develop methods according to which a more balanced answer can be given to these questions.”

Also, within FAIR, methods will be developed so that when work is carried out on flood defence assets, the tasks of other stakeholders can be successfully integrated. For example measures to improve nature, the facilities for recreation or the transport infrastructure. 

Who are the partners in the FAIR project?

“Rijkswaterstaat has been given the role of Lead Partner and is working alongside ten knowledge institutes and flood defence asset managers from England, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. By choosing this mixed group of stakeholders we can ensure a perfect match between supply and demand.”

Because the individual managers have submitted their own pilot projects, any of the instruments developed can be immediately put into practice and fine-tuned wherever necessary.

“We are also working in close collaboration with the Flood Risk Management programme, initiated by the Dutch Government and water board.”

The partnership agreement has been signed. What will be your first move?

“The FAIR project was actually already launched a year ago. Despite the absence of a partnership agreement, there was already sufficient shared confidence in the plan to make a positive start. We as Lead Partner played an important role in that process, by constantly communicating on the current state of play. One of the parties in fact recently made it known that it is thanks to Rijkswaterstaat’s efforts that the entire consortium is still together. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to trivialise the importance of the partnership agreement; without it, the partners and ourselves cannot submit any of the costs we incur to the EU. The agreement is also important to Rijkswaterstaat as it lays down the responsibilities and obligations of each of the partners.”

When can we expect results?

“The project is set to continue until June 2020. Its aim is to develop methods that provide answers to the central questions that face us. Those answers will be recorded in the form of guidelines, so that asset management can be taken to a higher plane both within the North Sea region, and beyond.” 

What does participation in this project mean for Rijkswaterstaat and the partners?

“We at Rijkswaterstaat initiated this project because of the challenges we face as asset managers. At system level those challenges relate to such questions as which section of the flood defence infrastructure we should tackle first, while at asset level the follow-up question is to identify the ideal solution. I hope that the knowledge and experience we acquire within the FAIR project will enable us to further improve the management of our flood defences”.