NWO grant for research on Dutch coastal protection

A collaboration between Utrecht University and TU Delft is one of seven project awarded with the NWO Open Technology Programme grant

Because the Netherlands is largely below sea-level, it is important that we maintain flood defenses such as dykes, dams and dunes in order to guarantee Dutch coastal safety in possible future extreme climate conditions. To reinforce these flood defenses, more and more coastal managers turn to sand instead of the traditionally used concrete, asphalt and stones. As far as the spread and movement of this sand  in coastal areas that only deal with either waves or the tides, our understanding is quite robust. But what about those areas where both waves and tides come into play?

The EURECCA project, a collaboration between UU and TU Delft, will examine exactly this. The project, ‘Effective Upgrades and Retrofits for Coastal Climate Adaptation’, has been awarded within the NWO Open Technology Programme to carry out research on the recently completed Prins Hendrikzanddijk, a man-made beach on the Dutch island of Texel.

The project, starting autumn 2020, is led by Dr. Timothy Price of the department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University and Matthieu de Schipper of the department of Hydraulic Engineering at TU Delft. In the coming four years, both universities will host a PhD candidate to work on the project.

Winter field work

Dykes, dunes and dams must be maintained to guarantee Dutch coastal safety.

“We hope to have our first measurement results within the first year,” says Price. “The research area on Texel is currently being monitored by dredging company Jan de Nul, and this winter our researchers will start the first measurements on waves, currents and sand movement.”

Field work will encompass a large part of the study: about €220.000 of the project's budgeted €927.000 - of which €749.000 will be funded by the NWO grant - will go towards acquiring and building measuring equipment, and  logistics of field work.

“From the field measurements we hope to understand how and when waves and tides move the sand of the Prins Hendrikzanddijk,” Price explains. “By using numerical models we can then test and extend these insights to develop a more generalized understanding of man-made beach dynamics. Ultimately, our findings will allow for more effective designs of future sandy reinforcements, under various combinations of waves and tides.”