Bloemrijke dijk
Bloemrijke dijk

Innovation Project 'Future Dikes' will develop strong, biodiverse grass revetment for future-proof dikes

The climate is changing. Extremes in precipitation and the rising sea level is putting more and more pressure on our water safety. In The Netherlands, 1,500 kilometres of dikes need to be strengthened in the coming 30 years to meet safety regulations. To realise this, we need more knowledge of effective and safe ways of restoring dikes, with special attention to biodiversity and sustainability on the dikes. On 11 April 2022, Future Dikes will be launched, aimed at sustainable grass revetment for the dikes of the future: erosion-proof, cost effective and with a diversity of flowers.

"Due to the innovations in the 'Hoogwaterbeschermingsprogramma (HWBP, lit: High Water Protection Programme), the Dutch dikes are made more advanced and efficient, and the dikes fit better in the surroundings. Dikes are an important part in the Dutch landscape. Water safety is our primary goal, but dikes can be multipurpose if we smartly combine goals. Hence, there is the opportunity to create biodiversity, as can be read in the projects book of the HWBP (only available in Dutch). Future Dikes contributes significantly to the biodiversity and sustainability ambition of all alliance partners of the HWBP, which work together to maintain safe dikes in The Netherlands. The erosion durability is also shown, and with that, the impact of the richness of species on the water safety."

Erik Wagener, Director Hoogwaterbeschermingsprogramma

Traditional strengthening of dikes means building higher and wider dikes. This is an extensive, time-consuming and expensive project. There is a need for more knowledge on effective and safe, but less radical ways of restoring dikes and sustainable maintenance. The project Future Dikes aims to contribute to this by strengthening Dutch dikes with a species-rich grass revetment.

Species-rich grass revetment

Species-rich dikes connect ecological values in our surroundings and contribute to biodiversity (including the condition of insects). Moreover, they are more efficient than traditional revetments, which are dominated by grasses. Species-rich dikes are less susceptible to droughts, preventing expensive repair measures as in 2018 and 2019. The flowery character contributes to the everyday surroundings and thus also to the support of the locals for dike strengthening.

"As a district water council, we have an enormous task with regards to strengthening the dikes. With the knowledge that will come from the Future Dikes project, we can also almost literally lay the foundation for the coming decades. This project also addresses our ambition for both safe dikes as well as the maintenance and increase of biodiversity in the river landscape. A dozen of other district water councils and Rijkswaterstaat (EN: Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management) are also involved with the same conviction. It's amazing to see that everyone is so motivated."

Marc Laeven, Heemraad, Water council Rivierenland

Intended results

The researchers of Future Dikes will study grass revetments and test them, to determine which combinations of plant species, soil types, and types of maintenance contribute to strong dikes. Moreover, the project will make a start in developing innovative seed mixtures that can stand the extremities of our climate.

The participants of the project will combine current and new knowledge and embed it in the design and assessment instruments (DAI), protocols for the construction and maintenance and the Handreiking Grasbekleding (Grass Revetment Guide). Future Dikes significantly contributes to the biodiversity and sustainability objectives of the High Water Protection Programme and water councils for all dikes in the Netherlands.

In the project Future Dikes, Radboud University, Wageningen University & Research, University of Twente, EurocoAdvies, Infram-Hydren, Lumbricus and Deltares research how we can strengthen Dutch dikes with species-rich grass revetment. The project is executed by order of water council Rivierenland and is financed by the High Water Protection Programme. Stichting voor Toegepast Onderzoek Water (Foundation for Applied Research Water), eleven water councils and Rijkswaterstaat are involved through a group of users.

Contact information

Contact Hans.deKroon [at] (Hans de Kroon) or Nils.vanRooijen [at] (Nils van Rooijen.)

Organizational unit
Faculty of Science