How do we ensure that people can continue to live safely and comfortably in low-lying delta areas? The Delta Technology theme examines climate change, rising sea levels and subsidence continually seeking solutions with the least detrimental effect on nature and the environment.

All over the world, life in deltas demands good protection from the surrounding water. Most attention in the theme is therefore paid to protection against flooding. Other subjects are often interrelated. For example, we study how spatial planning can best be aligned with the water balance, we ascertain how to guarantee our fresh water supply and develop models to provide insight into the consequences of flooding.

Sand engine

In order to be able to guarantee future safety we examine how we can deal with higher sea levels, larger river water discharges and extreme precipitation quantities. To reinforce sandy coastlines such as that found in the Netherlands we study alternatives to traditional sand suppletion and the, by now common, underwater suppletion. A promising option is the ‘sand engine’. This involves depositing a large quantity of sand off the coast in one go – which causes the least ecological damage - after which the sand is gradually distributed along the coastline by natural processes. We also wish to implement this approach, which we refer to as building with nature, in other fields.

Water barriers and river discharges

Research into water barriers is also important within the Delta Technology theme. In this field, we cooperate intensively with Rijkswaterstaat [Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management] and the knowledge institute Deltares. We develop knowledge on specific failsafe mechanisms such as piping and study the opportunities provided by multifunctional dikes that are more than just water barriers. Another subject is river discharges. Insight into these discharges is important for the determining of the minimum heights and strengths of river dikes in the Netherlands. We study precipitation and discharge processes in the river basin’s capillaries under extreme circumstances. We carry out field research, develop and test new measurement methods and create models which enable us to describe and predict precipitation and discharge processes.

Measuring and monitoring

An important development in our research is that we are increasingly measuring and monitoring in the field. Using video cameras we can, for example, monitor coastline development and the effect of suppletion. Stereo video enables us to visualise wave attacks on the coastline. These field measurements are, among other things, used to validate our models. We also examine whether we can properly determine the height and deformation of water barriers using satellite measurements.

Prof. ir. Marcel Stive

Theme leader and Professor of Coastal Engineering.


Further information

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Mapping the coast by jet ski 

A special jet ski equipped with GPS and a sonar system for measuring depth is used for coastal research in shallow waters. The jet ski is much cheaper than a boat and above all much more manoeuvrable in the surf. TU Delft makes the jet ski available to clients such as dredging companies for mapping the coastal sea floor for 5,000 Euro per day. Students carry out the measurements and the university continually adds measurement equipment using this income. A good example of academic entrepreneurship.


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