Scroll to top

High water

Just like Venice that is suffering from acqua alta as is the case in many other places in the world, Dutch dykes are fighting an annual battle with a surplus of river water.
In spring, melted snow from Austria, Germany and Belgium that has nowhere else to go is responsible for dangerously high water levels in the rivers.


In January 1995, the situation was so precarious that one of the dykes got undermined and was pushed a metre inland. At another dyke water sloshed over it. Yet another one developed cracks. At 21.00 hrs 250,000 people were ordered to evacuate that very night. We were among them. A nine-metre high wave was going to roll into the polder if one the dykes would go. The army was called in, divers secured the foot of the dykes with rubber mats and sand bags. The dykes held and we were allowed to return five days later.

--- 11 April 2020, Opijnen (NL) ---

Landgoed Rijswaard near Waardenburg


Drastic measures were taken: the dykes were heightened with 2 to 5 metres, and large areas were created where the rising water could go, sacrificing nature and riverside dyke dwellings. In February and March 2020 another surge of water came charging in. The measures proved to be sufficient and we were glad we could keep dry feet.

--- 11 April 2020, Opijnen (NL) ---

Landgoed Rijswaard near Waardenburg

Wetlands of De Rijswaard

The wetlands of nature reserve Waardenburg en Neerijnen are called 'De Rijswaard'. It is a riverside area that is designed to flood at high water. And it works.

--- 11 April 2020, West Betuwe (NL) ---

Landgoed Rijswaard near Waardenburg


Heightening the dykes proved to be worthwhile. From the mud you can see there was still a fairly large margin this time.

--- 11 April 2020, Waardenburg (NL) ---

Landgoed Rijswaard near Waardenburg


However, in the spring of 2020, when the surplus of water had ebbed away, another problem became painfully clear: it had stopped raining for weeks on end and farmers, fruit growers and people who loved their gardens were devoid of water. All of a sudden, there was a drought. Now the challenge for the Dutch is to prove what they claim to be: experts in water management.

--- 11 April 2020, Neerijnen (NL) ---

Landgoed Rijswaard near Waardenburg


In February 2021, the water rose again to a few metres below the apex of the dykes; and even in April the wetlands served as a reservoir, keeping our feet dry.

--- 10 April 2021, Heesselt (NL) 👁 more icm ---

Dyke guarding The Waal near Heesselt