Both as a port city and a delta city, Rotterdam has a close and essential connection with water. With climate change and extreme weather happening risk of floods caused by heavy rain is increasing. As evacuation is almost impossible, adaptation to climate change is serious business for Rotterdam.

Rotterdam's Resilience Strategy

In 2016 the City of Rotterdam launched its Resilience Strategy. Guided by 7 objectives the strategy addresses a resilient Rotterdam much broader than water and climate adaptation. Water management is one of these 7 objectives that will help in coping with climate change and urban densification. Together with Rotterdam’s Resilience strategy, the current Rotterdam WeatherWise programme (2019) aims to create a bottom-up movement to involve both public and private actors in implementing climate change adaptation measures.

Johan Verlinde, Programme Manager Rotterdam WeatherWise adds: “Rotterdam is a front runner and worldwide leader in the area of water management and has an ambitious strategy for city resilience. Doing nothing is not an option. Communication with private individuals and companies is key in becoming more a climate-proof city that is attractive for people to live and work in.”
Doing nothing is not an option.

Johan Verlinde

Programme Manager Rotterdam WeatherWise

Translating strategy

In order for Rotterdam’s WeatherWise strategy to be implemented in the entire city, it needed to be translated into a practical approach for each neighborhood. Together with different experts from the city of Rotterdam, Royal HaskoningDHV discussed and prioritized the themes for a specific neighborhood and designed a neighborhood strategy using STAIN, a tool that converts subjective information into an objective strategy and helps to keep a bird’s eye view of the whole city and link robust, redundant, flexible and integral solutions for a futureproof strategy.
Experts with different backgrounds shared their knowledge on the local situation and looked for locations where there were opportunities for adaptation on different levels. Together they discussed the implementation of solutions that would be beneficial to multiple WeatherWise themes. The result: a local strategy that translated the overall Resilience Strategy of the City of Rotterdam.

Rain in Rotterdam

Rotterdam often has to deal with extreme rainfall and the resulting pluvial floods. How Rotterdam deals with this can be recognized as a Digital Twin, connecting the physical environment with the digital environment. The digital twin helps in decision making – which structural measures are the most effective and efficient ones? Where should these be taken in order to achieve the goal? Accurate data and models are key element in this.
But, the Digital Twin can do more. Besides long term planning it also enables the operational prediction so real-time decision can be made. Think of emergency services that need to know which roads might be obstructed. The City of Rotterdam has therefor invested in a X-band radar that enables highly accurate rainfall fields on a highly detailed level. Based on this radar, nowcasts can be provided as input for the hydrodynamic models resulting in early warning of the flooded areas.

Additionally, the City of Rotterdam has adopted digital service ‘BlueLabel’. Within BlueLabel all the buildings are ‘labeled’ from A to E, to indicate the risk of pluvial floods causing damage. This results in a geographical overview of the city that indicates the areas which need more attention. This will help governments to set KPIs on flood risk improvements they want and need to make.

Climate labels also enable the communication between different stakeholders. Highly complex information is translated in easy to understand labels making it easier not only for specialists to determine next steps, but also for non-experts such as housing corporations, shop owners and residents.

Preparing the port

Proper flood resilience is not only important for the urban living environment in preparing for the future, but also for industrial sites – whether they’re ports, production or energy sites. And here too, good data analytics and modelling is a crucial factor, as are the economic damages caused by flooding.

The Port of Rotterdam wants to be one of the safest in the world – not just today but also in the future – and wants to make the businesses that lease its site aware of the importance of flood resilience.
Where BlueLabel labels the flood risk by heavy rain, the Port of Rotterdam conducted flood risk assessments for its entire port complex with the Global Flood Risk Tool (GFRT) on coastal and river flooding. Royal HaskoningDHV assessed the port’s current situation, the future situation in 2050 and 2100, mapping the flood risk and corresponding direct and indirect economic damages to the Port and its industrial sites.

Through the tool, climate adaptation strategies were delivered for the whole port. Detailed flood modelling was undertaken to assess the flood risk in terms of the probability of loss of life, economic damages and environmental impact; and an efficient, multi-level safety approach was designed comprising Prevention, Adaptation, Emergency response and Resilience measures.

Rotterdam: walking the talk

Resilience is the new robust. Rotterdam will do all that is within its power over the next few years to enhance the resilience of its city and port to truly be ready for a resilient and sustainable future. With the integral approach to resilience, much broader than water alone, and state-of-the-art digital tools and services, Rotterdam is prepared for the uncertain future.