How do you keep the Zuidwestelijke Delta safe, climate-proof, ecologically healthy and economically prosperous if sea level rise accelerates after 2050? That is the question at the heart of the Delta Wealth study. In this study, a consortium led by HZ University of Applied Sciences will devise, calculate and compare several delta plans for the next 50 to 100 years.
Climate change is putting pressure on the current water system. Recent reports by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) state that under high emissions scenarios, sea levels could rise by more than a meter by the end of this century. Combined with increasing periods of drought, salinization and freshwater shortages will increase. How can we adapt the water system in time? Can we keep the delta open and, if so, for how long? What are the consequences of closing? Or should we take the flight forward and build a new coastline in the sea?
In the short term, we can meet certain challenges by adapting existing systems, but long-term transformation is needed. The water system and landscapes must be redeveloped to accommodate the changes, so to speak, to become more robust and resilient. This requires innovative solutions, especially in a unique coastal landscape like the Zuidwestelijke Delta where multiple (peninsular) islands are connected by dams and storm surge barriers. "The measures needed to transform the delta are far-reaching to implement. With this research we are looking far ahead," says professor Teun Terpstra of the Resilient Deltas research group of the HZ. "A rise of a meter or more would mean that we have to take a considerable amount of measures. And these are all interrelated."
In Delta Wealth, a learning community with researchers, governments and social partners will develop possible delta plans, which will then be developed and discussed in the research. The learning community is led by Gebiedsoverleg Zuidwestelijke Delta. This body embraces this research. It wants to become the first delta in the world to have conceived, worked out and set in motion what is needed to be prepared for the consequences of climate change by 2050. A safe, climate-resilient, ecologically resilient and economically vital delta is and will remain the main goal.
By working together, sufficient attention is paid to policy, legal, economic, ethical and social aspects in all sub-plans. Ultimately, this leads to broad support. The Delta Wealth consortium is led by HZ professor Teun Terpstra. In addition to HZ, it includes universities such as TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research and Utrecht University, research institutes such as NIOZ and Deltares, consultancies, interest groups, designers, companies and contractors.
Delta Wealth has received more than 1.8 million euros in funding from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The research will start in fall 2023.