The Master’s programme River Delta Development is a unique joint degree offered by three universities of applied sciences with complementing expertise in the field of water. As a river basin, the delta is the natural connection between the three universities of applied sciences:
Natural processes such as rising sea levels, soil subsidence, an increase in powerful storms, and salinisation play an important role in the delta. In conjunction with the growing population, this puts pressure on the limited space, referred to as ‘coastal squeeze’. This increases the risk of flooding and other severe events. The challenge for delta professionals is to redirect global issues affecting the delta, which are also clearly visible in the south-west of the Netherlands, towards sustainable developments and take a step-by-step approach to arriving at safe, resilient, and economically vital delta coasts.
Building with nature
The transition projects in the south-western delta are substantial. Coastal protection plays an important role in delta regions. We know from experience that natural solutions are more resilient when it comes to withstanding disturbances (Building with nature).A wide range of expertise is required to make use of nature as much as possible for coastal protection. In addition to safety, these solutions also contribute to natural development and the economy (recreation).
The importance of water
Providing freshwater, water purification, and the recovery of raw materials are essential themes related to quality of life in delta regions. These demand special technology for the purification of water, such as desalination, reuse of water streams, and the application of systems that direct and monitor water quality and quantity.
In addition to the more technical transitional projects mentioned above, the socioeconomic perspective is also of great importance. Examples of this are citizens motivated to be self-reliant and the role of professionals in that self-reliant society. Further research into the relationship between spatial use, social capital, economy, and the vital infrastructure of delta regions is required.
As a student of the River Delta Development Master’s programme, you will conduct practical research in the research programmes of the Delta Academy Applied Research Centre. That research will focus on the following themes:
There are currently a variety of international research projects under way within these research outlines with a large number of partners, many of which are a part of large, national, and international research programmes.
Centre of the river system
VHL is located on an estate at the edge of the Veluwe, in the centre of the river system, near the big rivers as well as various streams and canals. These surroundings have served to provide centuries of experience in the optimisation of water management.
Examples of changes to the system are literally right around the corner: from the creek that flows across the estate to the point where the IJssel and lower Rhine diverge at the Pannerdens Kanaal and the dikes at Hondsbroeksche Pleij in Westervoort, just 15 minutes away by bicycle. New standards, climate effects, and socioeconomic and technological developments mean that continuous improvement of the river system is necessary to preserve its safety, vitality, and quality of life from source to mouth.
The current transitional task in the river system specifically focuses on addressing risks on the one hand and coordinating the many parties involved in the system on the other, all the way from the source to the sea. Addressing risks requires precise analysis of the vulnerability of a region and insights into the concepts to be applied and measures to be taken, such as multi-layer safety and future-proof flood defences. Coordinating the setup and management of river systems is complex due to the many parties involved at various scale levels and the associated regulations and policies. Transnational collaboration forms a specific component because of the fact that some streams and rivers cross national borders. As such, governance is an important aspect for the sustainable transition of river systems.
During the period at VHL, you will be exposed to course content on the river system as well as its physiogeographical and methodical side. You will conduct research projects linked to the Delta Areas and Resources Applied Research Centre. These will focus on the circular management of the river and integral regional design of river systems, during which a balance must be struck between safety, economics, ecology, and cultural history.
The Applied Research Centre is currently conducting different projects with a wide range of parties, varying from the Rijkswaterstaat (government body for infrastructure and water management) to business owners and nature preservation organisations.
Rivers, seas, precipitation, groundwater, drinking water, and wastewater are all elements of the urban water in Rotterdam. These water streams are an integral part of the urban region in supporting its users and residents. The city has many technical, spatial, economic, and social projects that form complex relationships with each other.
The pillars of the River Delta Development Master’s programme in Rotterdam are urban planning and construction, infrastructure, and mobility and water management. This knowledge is used to research the spatial, infrastructural, civil engineering, and governance aspects of water in delta cities and to resolve practical issues.
Transitions in the urban delta
Just like any other delta city, Rotterdam engages in substantial transitional projects. The relocation of harbour businesses towards the coast creates spatial issues that need to be addressed in the former inner-city harbours. The harbour itself generates a substantial share of national CO2 emissions, is involved in significant international competition, and relies heavily on the petrochemical industry, which is expected to become smaller over time.
The delta city must protect itself from the negative effects of climate change. The roles of the government, citizens, and businesses are changing as well. The city aims to achieve a 50% reduction in CO2, to become 100% climate resistant and is focused on shifting from petrochemicals to a sustainable production industry. Some of the results of this are Rotterdam Climate Proof, the urban harbour programme, Rotterdam Innovation District, the Rotterdam adaptation strategy, Resilient Rotterdam, and Water Sensitive Rotterdam. The city is a part of Connecting Delta Cities and 100 Resilient Cities and is internationally known as one of the leaders in these fields.
As a student of the River Delta Development Master’s programme, you will conduct practical research into the transition towards a sustainable delta city in research programmes at the Kenniscentrum Duurzame Havenstad (research centre for a sustainable harbour city) and the Instituut voor de Gebouwde Omgeving (institute for the built environment). This research can be carried out at large-scale experimental zones in the city, e.g. at Merwe-Vierhavens, as well as in residential areas which provide different scales, dynamics, issues, and potential solutions. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is already active in these areas via institutions such as the RDM Centre of Expertise and the Centre of Expertise Maatschappelijke Innovatie (centre of social innovation expertise).