The Netherlands is not finished. There are large spatial tasks and transitions ahead, such as climate change, making agriculture and the energy sector more sustainable, restoring biodiversity, but also, for example, the task of housing construction and ensuring sufficient clean (drinking) water. In short, it is time to roll up our sleeves to keep the Dutch Delta safe and livable. Together with Deltares we are developing the concept of Flood Resillient Landscapes. In this project we use the Reframing method to rethink the way we deal with flood risks in the Netherlands.
The dominant narrative to deal with floods in The Netherlands has long been one that is characterized by the struggle against water, the luctor et emergo narrative. In this narrative water is seen as a collective enemy that can be controlled through collective cooperation and technological innovation. This narrative is deeply rooted in the Dutch identity and is a source of national pride (Jensen, 2021). The paradox is that this strong trust in technology has led to a low awareness in the Dutch population: citizens don’t know how to respond to floods.
With concerns about rising sea levels, climate change and biodiversity loss forming a threat to future generations, there is a need to rethink our relation to water and floods. The Reframing method is used to explore what future alternative narratives might emerge to design alternative ways to deal with water. These narratives take into account a wide range of societal values. One of these emerging narratives is the idea that water should flow rather than confining it between dikes. This ecocentric narrative is based on the idea of cooperation between ‘us’ (humans) and ‘water’ (sea, rivers). Likewise, seven other narratives were developed that move away from purely infrastructural flood protection. On a regional scale these narratives are used to design flood resilient landscapes.
For the ongoing development of flood-resilient landscapes, together with Deltares we are setting up an ecosystem consisting of government authorities, other research institutes, NGOs and private parties. In the coming years we will up the pace with assistance from the subsidy for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality’s project www.waterveiligheidslandschappen.nl that we are working on with Wageningen Environmental Research. That work involves two lines. On a regional scale, we are focusing on the development and application of methodology and instruments in area cases. On the national scale, we are setting up a frame with future typical flood-resilient landscapes and developing generic building blocks. That makes it possible to apply solutions more widely.