Room for the river

Room for the River breaks with the traditional Dutch reliance on dike reinforcement in flood risk management. Instead, it seeks solutions by increasing river conveyance by opening up more room for the water to flow through. The objective is to increase discharge capacity by approximately 10% without raising the dike levels. The toolbox of flood safety measures involved often requires changes in land use and close interaction with regional spatial planning, with the explicit aim of enhancing spatial quality. The programme consists of a coherent set of measures to be implemented at approximately 30 river locations in the country. Its total budget is €2.3 billion and it is planned to be completed by the end of 2015.

Room for the River takes an innovative programmatic approach, providing a flexible framework, rather than a fixed set of projects. The Dutch government first developed the basic set of flood risk management measures as a preliminary package, and then invited regional governmental bodies and private parties to contribute regional alternatives - that is, either new measures or modifications to the preliminary package. These alternatives, which usually involve extra costs, can replace the preliminary measures once the additional financing for them is assured; in such cases, the national government therefore acts as co-financer. By law, the desired level of flood safety has to be reached before the end of 2015, so that the measures to this end have also to be implemented by that time.


Royal HaskoningDHV is proud to be part of the Room for the River programme. We are involved in most (including the most complex) Room for the River projects. Our involvement encompasses scoping studies, environmental impact assessment, design and engineering, procurement and supervision of works. We apply the “Nature Driven Design” principles to ensure sustainability of the developed measures. We use the integrated project management approach to assure the smooth progress of the complex processes involved in planning and execution of the works.

Altering a river system on the scale of the Room for the River programme is unprecedented, and is a technical

challenge with often large social impacts. Technically, the impact assessment of the measures on the river system is an enormous task entailing a number of risks. We have managed these risks through:

  • hydraulic, groundwater and morphological modelling

  • environmental impact analysis

  • ecological and landscaping analysis

  • monitoring programmes

  • dedicated designs.

Room for the River projects can have a major impact on the local community and individual land owners. Our project managers and experts have a profound understanding of the context and strategic processes, and have a proven ability to clearly communicate complex issues to stakeholders and the public at large. By combining these project management and communication skills with our top rate technical expertise, we make a unique contribution to the successful implementation of the Room for the River the successful implementation of the Room for the River measures.

The most prominent projects of the programme to which we proudly contributed, are:

  • Room for the Waal: a new lateral channel along the main Rhine branch will be excavated close to the centre of the oldest city of the Netherlands, Nijmegen, creating a city island for the waterfront development. The project won the top honour award of the Waterfront Conference in New York City in 2010. (Infographic Dike relocation Lent/Nijmegen ©Room for the River).

  • Bypass Kampen: a large flood relief channel will be constructed around the historical city of Kampen, removing the bottleneck created by the city development constricting the river Ijssel. The project combined various developments (bypass, urban development, infrastructure and agriculture) in the area into a single, integrated spatial development plan, acceptable to all stakeholders.

  • Depoldering Noordwaard: a large polder (4,450 hectares) will be reconnected to the river. During high river stages, 25% of the flow from the Waal (the main Rhine branch) will be conveyed through the polder. The polder will be partly covered by intertidal vegetation and become an extension of the adjacent De Biesbosch national park.

  • Water retention in Lake Volkerak-Zoom (8,300 hectares) in the south-west delta of the Rhine and Meuse: A total storage of 200 million m3 water will be used to safeguard the delta in the event that exceptionally high river discharge coincides with a severe North Sea storm. The project was particularly complex due to the many responsible governmental entities involved, the extensive project area situated at the crossline of the river and sea influence, and the large number of structures requiring adaptation.

  • Lowering of groynes in the Waal (main Rhine branch). The height of approximately 500 groynes will be reduced by 1 to 2 meters to increase conveyance of the river. A large challenge for this project was the impact of the works on the river bed, as the Waal is the busiest European transport route.


George Peters

Director Advisory Group Rivers & Coasts

Amersfoort, NL

+31 88 348 26 86

+31 6 52 41 64 35