Making Room for Nature: Eco-villages and the Room for the River Projects, Wet Infrastructure Planning Course, Day 4

By Andrew Sgro and Christopher Yuen

Andrew Sgro and Christopher Yuen are students in their final year of Ryerson’s Master of Planning program.  Andrew is focused on feasibility, large-scale infrastructure, and real estate and their potential for improving the places we love.  Christopher’s research interests include transportation planning and multi-functional infrastructure.

Today began with the Lena Maria docked in the Dordrecht, famous for its preserved medieval city centre. We began our day by heading to Culemborg, a municipality approximately 15 minutes south of the city of Utretch.  In Culemborg, we had the opportunity to tour the EVA Lanxmeer Eco-Village, a neighbourhood built to enable closed loop ecosystem services as much as possible. As this community is situated five meters below sea level, water management is essential to the functioning of the area.

Water table meter within the community for public education purposes.

Water table meter within the community for public education purposes.

The initial concept for the eco village was developed by the EVA Foundation with the assistance of the municipality of Culemborg. It is suited within an environmentally significant location as it sits near the town of Culemborg’s drinking water supply. The design of the community was specifically created around protecting and enhancing the site’s environmental features.

Stormwater and greywater is managed internally within the neighbourhood.

Stormwater and greywater is managed internally within the neighbourhood.

The community contains schools, homes, offices, and senior housing providing for an intergenerational mix and uses. Community gardens are located throughout the development with each household contributing their up-keep and finances.

Homeowners are obliged to contribute financially laboriously to the upkeep of community gardens to a mutually agreed upon aesthetic.

Homeowners are obliged to contribute financially laboriously to the upkeep of community gardens to a mutually agreed upon aesthetic.

 

M. Shouten explains the design and function of the Nijmegen Room for the River Project.

M. Shouten explains the design and function of the Nijmegen Room for the River Project.

In the afternoon, we travelled further east to Nijmegen, a city near the Netherland’s border with Germany.  Here, Mathieu Schouten, landscape architect with the municipality, presented on Nijmegen’s Room for the River project. The Nijmegen Room for the River project is one piece of a 2.4 Billion Euro project to re-design the Rijn River system to manage flood risk in the face of climate change and the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather.

Above, the island in the image was previously a part of the main land mass above it before the secondary channel for the Waal river was dug.

Above, the island in the image was previously a part of the main land mass above it before the secondary channel for the Waal river was dug. Image source: (http://www.ruimtevoordewaal.nl/en/visuals/panoramic-photos)

The public engagement, planning and approval of this project took 7 years and construction continues today.  The entire project, including the cost of the re-location of 50 homeowners that had to be expropriated, cost 360 Million Euros.

Water levels at the time of our visit were very low.  The channel is capable of  accommodating flows nearly to the level of the dike where a person is cycling in the photograph.

Water levels at the time of our visit were very low. The channel is capable of accommodating flows nearly to the level of the dike where a person is cycling in the photograph.

This project involved the creation of an artificial secondary channel for the Waal River to accommodate up to 1/3 of the volume of the Waal river at a time of high water flow.