Niek Smal

Niek Smal

Landscape Architecture


Water Pride  

A sustainable future for fresh water addicted North Holland 

The summer of 2018 was an exceptional one. It was the hottest in three centuries time. People enjoyed this warm period, but there were also negative aspects: dried out dykes and withered wet nature, damage to agriculture and obstruction of transport due to the low river levels. The drought has also hampered drinking water extraction from surface water in the Lake IJssel. 

The underlying task is the current organization of the fresh surface water system. The water quality of the Lake IJssel is strongly influenced by the large quantities of water extracted by the water boards of the adjacent provinces. These provinces use the water from Lake IJssel to keep dikes and wet nature wet, to maintain water levels, to irrigate and to flush the salt in provincial surface water system. These large extractions of fresh water by the water boards create shortages on the Lake IJssel and increases the salt concentration. Today, this is already a problem, but with the prospect of major changes in the climate, a completely unsustainable situation is emerging. Action is urgently needed. 

This thesis zooms in on North Holland, whose main and most demanding users are the farmers. They cannot function without the supply of large quantities of fresh surface water. North Holland is addicted to fresh water!

The answer to this problem is provided by the ‘Water Pride’ strategy. The current water system and the underlying landscape types provide direction for the division of the province of North Holland. 

As a result, specific solutions can be used per region to get North Holland off the 'tap'. Furthermore, the strategy is used as a kick-start to tackle other tasks for North Holland such as soil subsidence, energy, protein and agricultural transition. The measures for the regions vary from rigorous and innovative too subtle with minimal impact on the experience and use of the landscape. The most important intervention with the largest consequences is the division of the North Holland basin system into a fresh and a saline basin, whereby large amounts of fresh surface water is saved every year, which would otherwise be used for peat conservation by means of wet retention. 

Finally, the development of De Schermer polder shows how the ‘Water Pride’ strategy could land on a smaller scale and lead to spatial interventions in the landscape. The introduction of the Schermer Landscape Basin, which functions as a seasonal storage facility, makes De Schermer self-sufficient in its freshwater needs. 

In addition to the provision of sufficient fresh and clean water, the implementation of this landscape basin has an absolute added value for the region in terms of recreation, nature and housing demand. Furthermore, the basin also plays a crucial role in launching the transition from conventional agriculture to circular agriculture

The ‘Water Pride’ plan demonstrates, both at provincial and regional level, how North Holland can function without the supply of external fresh surface water and how this enhances spatial quality. This anticipates the uncertain and ominous future. In 1600, North Holland was already a progressive and innovative water province. In 2100, North Holland will be Water Proud again! 

Graduation committee: Roel van Gerwen (mentor), Jorryt Braaksma, Hank van Tilborg
Additional members for the exam: Yttje Feddes, Marit Janse

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