Story at a glance

  • Cities like New Orleans are partnering with the Dutch Dialogues, a workshop exploring urban design principles that the Netherlands uses to prevent flooding.
  • The idea is to work with the natural water flow to store rainwater and repurpose it to benefit the local environment.
  • By partnering with the Dutch Dialogues, multiple cities have earned millions in federal funding.

Coastal cities have long been desirable housing markets and strong economic centers, with one major downside: flooding. Due to hurricane risks and rising sea levels, towns and cities established along shorelines are increasingly vulnerable. Many countries with a coastline are affected by flooding risks, and in the U.S. alone cities like Miami; New Orleans; Houston; Norfolk, Virginia; and Ocean City, New Jersey, have recently seen land swallowed by rising tides.

So imminent is this threat that multiple countries across the globe have sought the help of a country whose battles with flooding have launched a booming hydraulics industry: The Netherlands.

The Dutch people have lived below sea level in a small country for hundreds of years. These circumstances have forced them to foster innovative water infrastructure that, it was soon discovered, can apply to multiple international cities. To launch their approach on a global scale, they have partnered with coastal cities to create The Dutch Dialogues, a series of workshops that partner with communities affected by flooding. Partnering cities to date include New Orleans and Norfolk, Virginia. 

Rather than create large-scale dams and levees (although this is an eligible solution), the Dutch Dialogues aim to develop “flood resilient” approaches. In New Orleans, for example, the Dutch Dialogues partnered with city officials and landscape architects to create the Living With Water initiative that works to develop sustainable water management strategies. 

The proposed design to store rainwater in New Orleans.

The current approach is to create an infrastructure that supports water retention by making use of existing structures, like dry canals, and implementing new urban design strategies that will store floodwaters and reintroduce excess water into the soil for greater ecological health, as outlined in the urban design plan. The ethos of the plan is to embrace the naturally wet conditions of the land by “Making space for the water and making it visible across the urban landscape” in a bid to make it an “asset to the region.” 

Currently, the Dutch Dialogues have partnered with the City of Charleston, South Carolina, to develop similar solutions to rising waters. 


Published on Dec 09, 2019