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Bringing All-risk to practice: Martin’s recommendations

Posted at 08/10/2020 by Wim Kanning

This blog is based on an informal interview between Martin Schepers (manager flood safety projects) and Wim Kanning (All-Risk researcher) on the development of the All-risk risk program.

Contact details

Wim Kanning

Delft University of Technology

Martin Schepers has been working as a Flood Safety Program Manager at Aveco de Bondt since May 2020. Before that, he worked at the Rivierenland Regional Water Authority as Program Manager of the Flood Protection Program (HWBP in Dutch) and the Project Overarching Exploration Macrostability (POVM). In these roles, he was (and is) involved in linking the content of research and current dyke improvement programs. Martin is also very close to All-Risk, the researchers still remember the passionate speech about the link between science and practice that he made at the start of the project, during an excursion. This blog outlines five recommendations to bring All-Risk research (especially project A: Risk framework) to practice.
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1) Show the integrated perspective of science innovations

Wim: Hello Martin, would you like to start by telling a little about your work and how it relates to All-Risk?

Martin: I indeed work as a Flood Safety Program Manager at Aveco de Bondt. Here I am a senior project manager, responsible for acquiring dike reinforcement projects, both design and construction. To be distinctive, Aveco de Bondt has a group of specialists for innovations and knowledge development. The market is looking for innovations, which also come from science. We want to be aware of what is going on in research programs such as All-Risk to connect this knowledge to what designers need and use it in our projects. We also have junior engineers, for which we want to offer exciting projects to keep them stimulated.

Wim: What are the major developments in dike reinforcement projects that you see? And how can research connect well with this?

Martin: I see that a wider perspective for the reinforcement of flood defences is increasingly important. Such perspective means that we do not only look at the dike segment but at the entire area, on the river or coastal side and on the land side. This can help, for example, in allowing greater overtopping rates but requires a system approach. What solutions do you get by looking at a zone instead of a dike? The solutions strongly depend on the water system and the room for innovations. The question is whether the Water Act sufficiently allows such system approach. However, the allowable flood probability approach from the Water Act offers many possibilities for more integrated consideration of flood risk management.

2) Help practice to link technical and probabilistic methods

Wim: All-Risk Project A focuses on the implementation of the flood probability approach. Are the possibilities in such approach sufficiently utilised as far as you are concerned? What can we do better?

Martin: The flood probability approach is still underused. I am in favour of a precise probabilistic assessment, but robust construction. Furthermore, we should not deal very strictly with small safety deficiencies in relation to the possible implications: what if the anticipated lifespan of a dike design is 45 years instead of 50 years while increasing it to 50 years has major implications for costs and the environment? Probabilistic and precise design is still in its infancy; it is better to design robustly. Therefore, it is important to have and improve the link between technical knowledge and probabilistic methods; these disciplines cannot do without each other for a good dike design.

3) Publish and explore how to best communicate the results

Wim: The project A1 of Wouter Jan Klerk on the optimisation of dike reinforcement was carried out in close collaboration with the Rivierenland Water Authority. How have they benefited so far?

Reliability index as a measure of flood safety for three dike failure mechanisms per dike section.

Martin: The starting point was SAFE, a dike reinforcement project of the Regional Water Authority focusing on the piping failure. Wouter Jan worked on this project as part of his PhD. However, the piping assessment was not sufficient as the Flood Protection program required a safety assessment for all failure mechanisms. Therefore, Wouter Jan extended his calculations to the slope stability and dike overtopping failures. The graphs that he produces give good insights into the dike sections with a safety shortage. By assigning to each failure mechanism a characteristic colour and comparing the shapes plotted on the graph with the “Mondriaan” (see Figure), he found a way to help, among others, the Regional Water Authority remembering how to interpret his graphs.

Moreover, the approach of partial reinforcement, i.e. not bringing all dike sections and failure mechanisms up to the required safety straight away but in steps has also opened the door to good optimisations and prioritisation. Wouter Jan’s approach turned out to be a sound basis for asking consultants to elaborate and apply this method further. It remains specialist work. It is therefore important that knowledge and experiences are shared in, e.g. publications so that more and more people can work with the method.

4) Make follow up recommendations for policy

Wim: Richard Marijnissen (Project A2) works on the shared-use of flood defences, what are the major challenges in this regard to you?

Range of functions that can be encountered on/near a flood defence including housing on a riverine dike. (Photo available from

Martin: Flood defences are becoming increasingly multifunctional. However, the question is how you manage this multi-functionality. For example, what happens if the house next to a dike contributes to its strength? Now we have to assume that the house is not in it, with a gap, for stability calculations. However, the weight does not simply disappear, not even in the event of a fire or collapse. Demolition can be a challenge, but you can set requirements for this by, for example, demanding a minimum new weight after demolition at the site of the house. Hence, the multi functionality is not the problem, but the control.

5) Show the synergy between individual projects

Wim: The All-Risk project will largely be completed in 2021, do you have any recommendations for the researchers in the final phase?

Martin Scheppers: “Je hoeft niet alles te weten om vooruit te kunnen”

Martin: As indicated to the researchers a few years ago, it is important to continue even if you do not know everything so that you do not get stuck. You cannot know everything at once. For All-Risk, it is also important to show the synergy between the individual projects. Try to make this transparent. For example, linking the projects of Wouter Jan and Richard can be interesting. Make clear how you can create added value for the reinforcement of specific segments, systems, but also for the regional flood defences. It is also important to provide good access to the entire research landscape. There are different programs (for example Future Dikes, SAFElevee), but how are these related and what happens where? Efforts to show the synergies are also important to be a good partner for the Flood Protection program.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that dike reinforcements projects are complex. A new action perspective is needed in which design, governance, organisation, and implementation come together.

Last modified: 12/11/2020