Connecting Delta Cities


Rotterdam: Trends

Trends: socio-economic, climate change

The vulnerability of Rotterdam to flooding is illustrated by several events in the 20th century. Rotterdam was narrowly spared from what is probably the most catastrophic flood in Dutch history. This ‘North Sea storm surge flood’ of 1953 resulted in 1835 deaths and flooded 165,000 hectares of land in the Netherlands. It led to the establishment of the Delta commission and the Delta Works engineering project. The city also avoided flooding during the river Meuse floods of 1993, which caused over €100 million of damage further upstream in the Netherlands. However, the new precipitation record set in August 2006 did lead to widespread flooding and damage in the city of Rotterdam.

Population growth, urban development and economic development, have a huge impact on land use. In the western part of the Netherlands flood risks have increased over the last 50 years by a factor of 7 due to urbanization. Even without climate change, flood risk will increase simply because residents and businesses continue to settle in vulnerable locations.

But the climate is also changing. A new precipitation record was set in August 2006, when almost 200 mm (7,9 inch) of rain fell in one month, causing floods and damage in the Rotterdam city area. In winter the rainfall tends to be more persistent, although periods of excessive rainfall upstream in the basin can cause floods in the rivers Rhine and Meuse. The flood problem for Rotterdam is increasing by relative sea level rise. Over the course of the 20th century, the sea level in the North Sea rose by about 200 mm (7.9 inch); the rate of sea level rise between 1993 and 2004 was ca. 3 mm (0.12 inch) per year.


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