By creating more space for the Waal River, Nijmegen is proving that targeted adaptation not only improves resilience but also brings social and economic benefits.

Faced with increased risk of flooding, the Dutch city of Nijmegen has adapted by giving more room to the Waal River, while protecting nearby natural habitats and providing recreational space. In 2012, the city began manipulating the river and its shores at 30 key locations, moving the main dike 350m inland, and digging an extensive new river channel parallel to the original. To overcome this new channel, the Waal Bridge was extended and three new bridges were created. By its completion in 2016, the project succeeded in achieving a 35 cm river height reduction instead of the 27 cm target, and during high river tides, one-third of the total amount of water is discharged through the new ancillary channel.

While the primary goal of the project, dubbed Room for the River Waal, is to reduce the river level and prevent flooding of homes and businesses, the recreation areas created by the project are improving quality of life for residents and visitors as well. Showcasing the far-reaching importance of the project, positive effects are even noticed 20 km upstream in Duisburg, Germany.

8 cm more river height reduction was achieved through the project than initially planned

The challenge

The narrow watershed of the Waal River creates a bottleneck in Nijmegen that has long been prone to flooding. Rather than blocking the river with high levies, the city chose to embrace the water, creating a new river channel to help manage water flows and prevent flooding to nearby homes and businesses.


Economic An environmental assessment and a social cost-benefit analysis have been made for his project, indicating a more than $295 million positive effect.

Environmental As part of the project, 80 hectares of agricultural land were transformed into a natural reserve area.

Health Recreational facilities created as part of the project encourage healthy activities like hiking, cycling, and rowing.

Social Room for the River Waal ensures the safety of at least 250,000 residents who live behind the dikes.

About Nijmegen

Nijmegen is a municipality and a city in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is the oldest city in the Netherlands, the first to be recognized as such in Roman times, and in 2005 celebrated 2,000 years of existence.

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