By Billy Novanta Yudistira
Living on the edge of land and water offers many benefits, which is why the ancestors stayed there despite the intrusive sea, trying to learn to live with water. Excavations near Vlaardingen in the late 1990s proved that water management was already part of life before the Common Era began. Dams, sheet piling and culverts were uncovered that are clearly indicative of water management interventions.
In order to understand how Netherland water management system works, the water systems themselves need to be explained. A water system comprises various components which interconnect to a high degree, particularly in the water management system of the Netherlands. They influence each another, they are co-dependent and moreover they are sensitive to transfer of problems related to water quality and quantity.
Components of our water management system
Rivers and canals
The days when the rivers could determine their own course are long gone. They have taken various measures to control water distribution. Key tools are the weir at Driel, which determines to some extent how much Rhine water flows to the IJssel, the Neder-Rijn and the Waal; the sluice gates in the Afsluitdijk, which enable us to regulate the water level in Lake IJsselmeer; and the Haringvliet and Volkerak sluice gates, which allow us to determine through which ‘exit’ the water will flow into the sea.
The Meuse is a rain-fed river and, as a result, it often goes through periods with little discharge. In order to retain what water there is and to maintain shipping, seven weirs were constructed in the 20th century: at Borgharen, Linne, Roermond, Belfeld, Sambeek, Grave and Lith.
The canals in Midden-Limburg and Noord-Brabant
The provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant rely on the Meuse for their water supply. According to several treaties with Belgium since 1863, the Netherlands is obligated to discharge a minimum of 10 into the Zuid-Willemsvaart via the supply culvert at Maastricht. In return, Belgium is obligated to redirect 2 , plus anything exceeding the obligatory 10 that is discharged to the Netherlands at Lozen.
The Rhine and its distributaries
The Rhine crosses the Dutch border at Lobith. The first bifurcation point is near the Pannerdensche Kop. Here the river splits into the Waal and the Pannendersch Kanaal, which flows into the Neder-Rijn. East of Arnhem, the IJssel branches off from the Neder-Rijn.
The Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal and the Noordzeekanaal
The Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal and the Noordzeekanaal are of major importance for shipping connections between IJmond, Amsterdam and Germany and for regional water management. The canals must be considered as a single system.
This water system comprises lakes IJsselmeer, Markermeer, IJmeer and Randmeren. This is the largest freshwater basin in Western Europe and functions as a buffer which, during periods of drought, can supply water to many of the northern parts of the Netherlands.
The southwestern Delta is demarcated by the Nieuwe Waterweg/Nieuwe Maas, the Biesbosch and the Scheldt estuary. It is a complex system of interconnected and mutually influential fresh- and saltwater waterways.