Netherlands: The Dutch & Water
Living Below Sea Level
It takes strength and ingenuity to hold back the mighty ocean! If you’ve ever tried to protect a sandcastle from an incoming tide, you know what I’m talking about. There’s just no stopping it unless you have the right technique and the right tools!
The Dutch have exactly those things. In fact, they’re experts with hundreds of years of experience outsmarting the sea.
A whopping 26 percent of the Netherlands, is below sea level. And, of the rest, 50% is just one meter above. For over 2,000 years ago, the Dutch have made embankments, called dikes, to prevent the sea from invading the land.
For most of the country’s history, the dikes have worked, but in 1953, massive storms and unusually high tides caused the North Sea to spill over them. The flooding killed more than 1,800 Dutch people, valuable livestock was lost, and over 70,000 people were forced to evacuate.
In the aftermath of the flood, the Netherlands decided to make the country safer by developing the Delta Works Project, a new flood protection system. This flood protection system is made up of dams, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers.
London, which receives about 100 days of rainfall a year, is often called the “rainy city,” but some cities in the Netherlands receive nearly 200 days of rainfall per year! That’s a lot of rain!
In addition to rain, water threatens the Netherlands from all directions. The North Sea and various rivers are constant threats, and more than half of the country’s population lives in areas at risk for flooding. Fortunately, there is only a 1 in 10,000 chance that the Delta Works Project will fail.