EMERGO: The Dutch flood risk system since 1986

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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PART I | A RESEARCH AND DESIGN PROJECT ABOUT FLOOD RISK POLICY SINCE 1986 The period between the Dutch flood disaster of 1953 and the year 2016 can be divided into two eras, separated by the year 1986, when the famous Eastern Scheldt barrier was completed. The perspective of water professionals on flood risk policymaking during the three decades before 1986 was dominated by the reconstruction approach of the Delta Works and has frequently been studied. The three decades after 1986 have a less obvious general approach, which has not yet been studied in depth as a whole. This dissertation attempts to develop a coherent perspective on flood risk policy during the last 30 years. This thesis’s research objective is to develop a comprehensive flood risk and water systems analysis framework, to be used for two purposes. First, providing a historical interpretation of flood risk policy by answering the main research question: how can the development of the Dutch flood risk system since 1986 be characterised fundamentally? In the core of the thesis, three main historical trends are identified. The first trend results from a study of systematic approaches to flood risk through the years, the second main trend addresses the relevance to flood risk of additional flood risk-related water system objectives (freshwater conveyance, shipping, nature/ecotopes and landscape quality) and the third trend involves additional new ideas or narratives which have been influential during the studied period. The second purpose of the water systems analysis framework is to meet the design objective of the thesis: to design an internet platform to represent the systems analysis framework and illustrate historical and future development of the Dutch flood risk system. The aim of the platform is to systematically organize and visualize the available studies and design projects, to educate about water systems, to inspire users to add contributions and monitor user behaviour to help indicate new research and design opportunities and support policy decisions. Acknowledged criteria for scientific and societal relevance guide the design throughout the thesis. Chapter 2 introduces the platform, which was called SimDelta in 2012 and renamed Flowz in 2017. A brief survey of approaches to water system planning and ‘serious games’ concludes that a graphic interface to visualise technical-physical complexity and socio-political complexity (or: supply and demand of analyses and ideas) is increasingly recognised to contribute to effective policymaking. A structure for the platform is proposed, consisting of six stackable software blocks: the base block contains interactive maps generated in a systems model, the top block involves communication between stakeholders to make choices in a virtual problem-solution space. Usage over the internet makes it possible to record preferences, and ‘crowdsource’ corrections, improvements and new ideas. The extent to which the concept can contribute to policymaking can only be tested by developing it step-by-step. Chances for success will depend on how the platform relates to existing ways information is obtained and existing types of decision support. PART II | AN INTEGRATED FLOOD RISK AND WATER SYSTEMS ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK (not added here…) PART III | STRUGGLING IN ‘MASLOW’S HIERARCHY FOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE (not added here…).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Vrijling, J.K., Supervisor
  • Kok, M., Supervisor
  • Voûte, M.A., Advisor
Award date22 Jun 2017
Print ISBNs978-94-6233-669-8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017


  • Dutch flood risk policy
  • Integrated flood risk systems analysis framework
  • Design of a graphic language to represent the development of national water systems

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