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H1) Optimizing river management

Start: 08/2014
End: 12/2019
Status: Active

Contact details

Menno Straatsma

Utrecht University

Download here the summary poster related to this project.

Gameren, an area next to the Waal river where a side channel was built to reduce water levels and improve biodiversity (Source: RWS).

Project output

Prototype toolbox to estimate and get a quick overview of the multiple benefits and related costs of flood reduction interventions.


Adapting densely populated deltas to the combined impacts of climate change and socioeconomic developments presents a major challenge for their sustainable development in the 21st century. Typical river interventions such the ones implemented in the Netherlands but also abroad should limit the costs while satisfying requirements for flood safety and biodiversity. That is for example the case of the Waal river in the Dutch Rhine (see Figure). Decisions for the adaptations require an overview of cost and benefits and the number of stakeholders involved, which can be used in stakeholder discussions.

Key goals: Collaborative Governance Integrated management

Seven different interventions (top) that were positioned and parameterized automatically in the Waal River (detail left), and evaluated at the scale of the delta and river reach (right).

Innovative compoments

We propose RiverScape, a prototype modelling toolbox that allows to quickly position and estimate costs of seven types of river interventions. These are (see image on the right): (1) Side channel constructionl (2) Floodplain lowering; (3) Vegetation removal; (4) Embankment or dike relocation; (5) Groyne lowering or removal; (6) Lowering or removal of minor embankments; and (7) Raising of main embankments. RiverScape is built upon existing modules (2D flood model, BIOSAFE and Delft3D). Policy advisors can compare the interventions according to flood reduction,  biodiversity indicators and a rough cost estimation. The latter is calculated based on the amount of removed material with the interventions. For the Dutch locations, the biodiversity module automatically extracts the landscape changes on the different ecological catefories from the official maps.

For whom and where?

  • Regions around the world that are interested on the Room for the River interventions and the potential application of RiverScape;
  • Dutch locations that need to estimate biodiversity effects and ecosystem services for planning or maintenance.

Data-collection methods: Historical approach Numerical modeling Process-based modeling

Temporal scale: 1-10years Scenario

Application and findings

We quantified the trade-offs of common measures for the River Waal with adaptation scenarios driven by:

  1. the choice of seven measures,
  2. the areas owned by the two largest stakeholders (LS) versus all stakeholders (AS),
  3. the ecological or hydraulic design principle. We evaluated measures automatically by their efficiency in flood hazard reduction, potential biodiversity, number of stakeholders and measure implementation cost.

We found that only floodplain lowering over the whole study area can offset the altered hydrodynamic boundary conditions; for all other measures, additional dike raising is required. The areas owned by Staatsbosbeheer and Rijkswaterstaat comprise low hanging fruits for water level lowering due to the governance simplicity and hydraulic efficiency. Natural management of meadows (AS), after roughness smoothing and floodplain lowering, represents the optimum combination between potential biodiverity and flood hazard lowering, as it combines a high potential biodiversity with a relatively low hydrodynamic roughness.

Status for day-to-day practice

With this automatic multicriteria evaluation, we step up to a multi-disciplinary optimization. It supports the negotiations among stakeholders in the decision-making process.

We applied the prototype tool at a larger scale (for the three main Rhine tributaries) and for two river sections (in Waalwelde area nearby the Gelderse Poort and in Sint Andries location).

Key locations: IJssel River (NL) Nederrijn-Lek River (NL) Rhine River (NL) Waal River (NL)

Spatial scale: Delta scale River section

Next steps

The concept will be tested in a sequence of Living Labs for the River Waal in 2019. Temporal evaluation, which includes floodplain maintenance, extends the current functionality.

Last updated: 10/02/2020

Explore the contact details to get to know more about the researchers, the supervisory team and the organizations that contribute to this project.

Main researcher

Menno Straatsma

Utrecht University

Suvervisory team

prof. dr. Maarten Kleinhans

prof. dr. Hans Middelkoop

Contributing partners

As soon as available, explore the storyline to get to know more about the main methods or prototype tools that were developed within this project.

Biodiversity recovery and flood risk adaptation at delta scale

We calculated biodiversity scores to show the recovery from 15 years flood risk adaptation that consider nature requirements.

Menno Straatsma

Utrecht University

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Explore the output details for available publications to get a glance of the innovative components and implications to practice as well as the links to supporting datasets.

Project outputs

Low-hanging fruits in large-scale fluvial landscaping measures

We show that the multidimensional evaluation of river interventions in the Waal river opens up opportunities to discuss possible trade-offs.

19/09/2018 by Menno Straatsma et al.

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Contains: Publication open access

Flood hazard reduction from automatically applied landscaping measures in RiverScape

Seven flood reduction measures along the Waal river were ranked according to the water level reduction and the displaced material for their implementation.

01/03/2018 by Menno Straatsma et al.

View details View publication

Contains: Model or tool upon request

Biodiversity recovery following delta-wide measures for flood risk reduction

We show the biodiversity recovery from 15 years flood risk adaptation that consider nature requirements building a spatial extension to calculate biodiversity scores.

08/11/2017 by Menno Straatsma et al.

View details View publication

Contains: Dataset upon request Publication open access Storyline for practice

Take a look to the dissemination efforts and application experiences which are available in the news items and blogs.



PlanSmart + RiverCare = Smart River Symposium

In order to exchange experiences between the two projects, researchers of the German PlanSmart project and the Dutch RiverCare project, as well as invited guests met on the 19th and 20th of June 2018 in Hannover.

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Knowledge sharing meeting in Witteveen+Bos, Rotterdam

How can we apply the researchers’ findings to improve our designs and environmental impact assessments? How can we share lessons learned from RiverCare within our team of engineers and consultants?

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Biodiversity in the Rhine Delta featured on national news and TV

09/11/2017 by Menno Straatsma

After decades of decline, the biodiversity increases again in the Rhine delta, the rivers and floodplains along the large tributaries in The Netherlands.

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RiverCare meeting room


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Rivercare floodplain


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