From development to application
A Deltares publication
Water & Subsurface Issues
The State of the Delta is of vital importance. Not just for the Netherlands, but also for the many hundreds
of deltas in the world where people live, work and relax. This is not something we can take for granted.
Delta technology is necessary to make life in deltas possible and to protect it. Deltares is a major
international player in the development of knowledge on water and subsurface issues. A knowledge
institute that upholds a tradition stretching back to the very first reclamation of land from the sea.
Interestingly enough, this new knowledge is no to live comfortably in low-lying delta areas. And the
longer being produced exclusively here in economic added value, because the knowledge and
The Netherlands. God created the world, but the technology we develop enables our partners and
Dutch created Holland, as the English used to say. clients to open up new markets. ‘Enabling Delta Life’
But we can no longer rest on our laurels. Elsewhere can be lucrative. Since we focus on sustainable
in the world people are tackling challenges and solutions and approaches in the delta, this is a
devising solutions that are on a scale unknown in ‘win-win’ situation.
the Netherlands. Take for example, the widening of
the Panama Canal and the new locks that are To achieve this added value, scientific knowledge
associated with it, or the construction of ‘Climate alone is not enough. Innovation is only really
Proof Roads’ in Europe. innovation if it can be successfully applied - in new
products and services the market needs and wants
As an institute we are part of these (inter)national to adopt. This last point is lacking on occasions.
developments. The knowledge that we acquire is Brilliant people sometimes have a tendency to throw
made available to the authorities, to consulting their equally brilliant ideas over the wall. ‘Hey, this
engineers and to the building and construction is what we’ve come up with. See what you can do
sector. This new knowledge is the basis for the tools with it.’
of tomorrow. Deltares is judged on the added value
it provides: the societal added value of delta That, however, is not effective. An idea - no matter
technology that enables us, now and in the future, how good - if not well nurtured, runs the risk of
Innovations collected 1
suffering the same fate as the biblical seed that fell One of Deltares’ important aims is to create an
on stony ground. It will not blossom, because there environment where such confrontations can take
is an absence of fertile soil among those responsible place. Where doors and windows are open and where
for implementing it. Another reason why it might parties are invited to exchange ideas. An open
not blossom is that it may be more like a solution in innovation network, in which both the large market
search of a problem. The idea does not correspond players and the niche players can participate.
to the needs of society.
The best illustration of that? Deltares’ home land is
Ideas that are not adopted are a form of social and too small a test bed for the body of knowledge
intellectual waste. Therefore, we base our work in required to solve its potential water problems. For a
Deltares on the entire innovation cycle, from idea to long time now, Deltares’ development and learning
implementation, and back again. activities have not been confined to the Netherlands
alone. The experience we have gained from the
As usual, the cycle begins with an idea. For a second extension of the Rotterdam Harbour is
knowledge institution, science is the main source utilised in a large number of harbour projects
from which ideas are drawn. That continues to be around the world. Likewise, what we have done on
the case, but Deltares has added a new source: the the Yangtze River also benefits water managers in
embedding in society and the problems and needs the Netherlands. Local knowledge applied globally,
that these entail. global knowledge applied locally.
Our philosophy of innovation is that the best ideas This collection includes a number of examples of
arise from the confrontation between scientific and this. These are characterised not only by the fact
technological developments on the one hand and that they have arisen at the interface between
social developments and needs on the other. In this various disciplines, but also because they have been
respect, the ideas must both have societal relevance, or are being developed in consultation with partners
and must stand the test of scientific critique. in society, inside and outside The Netherlands. In
other words: typically Deltares.
2 Innovations collected
Building roads quickly and safely with a piled embankment 4
Eco-Xbloc as a substrate for the marine ecosystem 6
Using ecosystem engineers for coastal protection 8
Bacteria stop danube dike from leaking 10
Innovative groynes serve various purposes 12
Inexpensive test for detecting polluted drinking water 14
Playful learning with ‘serious games’ 16
Early warning for harmful algal blooms 18
Several birds with one stone 20
Beach wizard gives up to date information on the foreshore 22
Innovations collected 3
Like other delta areas, the Netherlands has to contend with soft soils.
Construction of infrastructure therefore takes a long time and is difficult
on account of the risk of damage to surrounding structures. The piled
embankment offers a solution.
Building roads quickly and
safely with a piled embankment
In order to accelerate the construction process and to reduce the subsidence of
roads and railways, the soft soil is consolidated in an accelerated manner by
draining and/or temporarily preloading it. Compressing the soft soil still takes
quite a long time, during which period no further construction can take place.
After the road or railway is opened, uneven settling may occur, which causes
damage to the road or railway. Repairs are expensive and cause a great deal of
disruption to traffic.
The piled embankment is an innovative way of tackling these problems. The
embankment consists of granular material (often construction debris) that is
reinforced with geogrid. The embankment rests on piles installed through the
soft soil until they reach a firm layer of sand. The road or railway is constructed
on the embankment. This transmits the load - caused by the traffic - to the piles,
after which it is discharged into the deep layer of sand.
A major benefit of the piled embankment is that subsidence is avoided. In
addition, you can continue with the construction straightaway, because no time
is required for consolidation. The piled embankment is therefore a good solution
for transitions between a bridge or viaduct and a road bed. An additional
advantage is that the piled embankment does not cause any damage to pipes,
vulnerable buildings or adjacent roads and railways. This makes the piled
4 Innovations collected
embankment ideal for railway or road widening if the adjacent road or railway
needs to be kept in service.
The piled embankment is still relatively unknown to developers and contractors.
It is very rarely mentioned in tendering procedures, in spite of its advantages.
Together with other partners, Deltares has therefore taken the initiative of
drawing up design guidelines for the piled embankment. This will provide both
developers and contractors with clear information about the design and
reliability of the structure.
With the computer program MPiledRoad developers and contractors can design
and cost a piled embankment. Another computer program (MRoad) allows an
economic comparison to be made between various construction methods,
including the piled embankment. Initial results indicate that, in terms of
construction costs, the piled embankment is more expensive than a sand body.
Over its whole lifetime, however, it is often cheaper, because the road or railway
will require less maintenance - with the additional advantage that traffic jams
will be avoided.
Innovations collected 5
Man-made structures at the interface between (sea)water and air sometimes
turn out to be surprisingly rich in biodiversity. The deeper parts of the
Oosterschelde dikes, for example, attract thousands of divers every year who
come to view the wealth of plants and animals to be found on this artificial
Eco-Xbloc as a substrate for
the marine ecosystem
Together with the Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and
Water Management) Deltaress examines whether the Eco-Xbloc from BAM
Infraconsult can act as a substrate for this kind of rich ecosystem.
In June last year, as a trial, the first ten Eco-Xblocs, each weighing nine tonnes,
were placed on the southern breakwater of the port of IJmuiden. They are
different from normal Xblocs in that the moulding template for the concrete
blocks is coated on the inside with a preformed material. The effect is that the
surface of the Eco-Xblocs is much rougher than usual for concrete used in
hydraulic engineering. In combination with the high porosity, this rough surface
should make it easier for shellfish, barnacles and algae to attach themselves.
The diverse and sheltered habitat that exists between the piles of Xblocs attracts
other wildlife, such as lobsters, shrimp, fish and birds.
The trial on the IJmuiden breakwater is part of the ‘Diverse Dike’ programme,
which in turn is part of the Rijkswaterstaat’s Water Innovation Programme
(WINN). For a period of three years, Deltares will be researching into how life
develops on the Eco-Xblocs. Other eco-structures and materials are examined in
6 Innovations collected
the same location together with other partners such as Cfix-BV and Shell. The
results will be used in making decisions on the requirements for renovation of
the breakwater. The Rijkswaterstaat’s ambition is to achieve at least the same
level of ecological richness - in terms of biodiversity and productivity - as is
present at the moment.
This project owes it success to the excellent cooperation between a knowledge
institute, the contractor and the water manager.
Innovations collected 7
While it may be true that the Dutch created their own country, they also
received substantial assistance from ecosystem engineers. Deltares is
researching how plants and animals can be used for coastal defence,
building on centuries-old techniques for reclaiming land and increasing
Using ecosystem engineers
for coastal protection
Climate change is probably associated with a rise in the sea level and an increase
in the frequency and intensity of storms. The Ecosystem Engineers project that
Deltares is conducting, together with the Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General
for Public Works and Water Management) and other partners, aims to discover
whether a more natural defence of the coast can offer the same level of protection
at a lower cost, and with the additional benefit of the development of new and
Ecosystem engineers are no strangers to Dutch coastal engineers. Vast salt
marshes occur naturally along the coasts and in estuaries: overgrown flats
traversed by deep gullies that are only under water at spring tide and that
naturally respond to sea level rise by increasing its height. The vegetation
dampens the force of the waves and currents and the deposited sand and silt
cause the flats to rise higher above the water surface. The mussel and oyster
beds that attach to the rough structures also play a role in coastal protection.
They attenuate the force of the waves and by filtering large amounts of water
(for food) they collect sediment, thus stabilising and raising the seabed.
On account of climate change and the increase in paved surfaces in the Rhine
and Maas basins, the Netherlands will be experiencing increased river outflows
over the next century. This means that raising the height of dikes will not only
8 Innovations collected
be expensive, but will also have profound implications for the towns and villages
behind the dike. The establishment of swamp forest or (floating) reed marshes in
front of the dike can help to improve safety, which means that the dikes do not
need to be increased so dramatically in height. And it also increases the
diversity and area of the surrounding nature.
To ensure the optimum deployment of ecosystem engineers, knowledge and
experience must be acquired with regard to the ecological, morphological and
hydrodynamic processes that take place around the formation and maintenance
of salt marshes, shellfish beds and reed swamps. There also needs to be greater
clarity about the reliability and predictability of effectivity of these biological
components. These are issues that Deltares, together with others, is attempting
to clarify. As the same principle can be applied in water systems all over the
world, Deltares is applying these concepts to provide innovative integrated
solutions for international clients.
Innovations collected 9
Hans Brinkers is world famous as the boy who saved a village by putting his
finger in the dike. Deltares is repeating this trick with a leaking dike along
the Danube, but this time with the help of bacteria.
Bacteria stop danube dike
The dike in question has been raised and strengthened to create a reservoir in
the Danube near the Austrian town of Tulln. To prevent leakage as a result of the
higher water level, a clay wall was made in the dike. This, however, does not work
properly in all places, with the result that there is a leakage of water at the foot
of the dike. Together with the Austrian contractor Insond, Deltares is conducting
a test into sealing the leak with BioSealing.
With BioSealing, natural processes are used to seal a leak in the subsoil. The
injection of nutrients into the soil - a sort of molasses, the residue of the potato
industry - stimulates the anaerobic (= oxygen-free) growth of bacteria. When
they grow, these bacteria produce organic acids that cause the soil particles to
decompose. At the same time, a large quantity of biomass is formed, which
collects the decomposed soil particles and deposits them as clay clods. These
clay clods seal the leak like a cork in a bottle, even after the biomass has been
After demonstrating the effect of BioSealing in the lab, a practical trial was
carried out on the Maasvlakte, where leaking sheet pile walls were simulated
using buried containers. The technique was then successfully used to seal leaks
in clay and peat layers. These natural layers had been damaged by the
10 Innovations collected
construction of the HSL aqueduct under the Haarlemmermeer Ringvaart, which
meant there was a danger of salt seepage water displacing the fresh
groundwater in the polder, which would have had serious consequences for
With the Danube dike, the initial phase consisted of administering nutrients as a
‘tracer’ to see if they would arrive at the right place and be converted by bacteria
into organic acids. At the same time, the University of Vienna conducted a study
into the potential environmental effects, a legal obligation in Austria. The results
of this initial phase are currently being evaluated, after which it will be
attempted to seal the leakage in phase two (spring 2009).
Innovations collected 11
The innovative groyne that Deltares has developed in cooperation with and
on behalf of the Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and
Water Management) has been optimised to improve both drainage at high
water levels and navigability at low water levels, while also reducing the cost
of groyne maintenance. As a trial, two lots of four groynes have been
installed in the Netherlands’ busiest river, the Waal.
Innovative groynes serve
The standard design for groynes dates from the nineteenth century and was
primarily motivated by a desire to keep construction costs as low as possible. It
still does its job, but has inevitable disadvantages. For example, deep holes may
be produced at the head of a groyne, reducing the flow through the fairway and
impairing navigability at low water levels. The shape and height of a groyne
result in a proportionately high degree of resistance, so that extra high water
levels may occur in the case of large outflows. Over the course of time, the
riverbed falls and the groynes will therefore be relatively high. The risk of flooding
is thus increased. On account of the vegetation growing between the quarry
stones, especially willows, groynes also require regular maintenance.
At the start of this century, Deltares was asked by the Rijkswaterstaat to jointly
design a new type of groyne. Several groyne shapes were examined and tested
to scale. Ultimately, we came up with a groyne with gentle slope gradients and a
smooth surface. An additional advantage is that willows cannot grow on a compact,
smooth surface. The downstream slope, which traditionally has a gradient of
approximately 1 : 3, has been decreased on the innovative groyne to 1 : 8. This
reduces resistance and increases drainage over the groyne when the water level
is high. The gentle gradient at the head of the groyne, from 1 : 3.5 to 1 : 8, also
ensures that the scour holes become considerably less deep. At low water levels
12 Innovations collected
there is therefore a greater flow through the fairway, making the river more
navigable. Less material is also deposited elsewhere, reducing the need for
In the autumn of 2008, two lots of four groynes were installed as a trial in the
Waal, one lot on an inside bend and one on an outside bend. Over the coming
years the Rijkswaterstaat and Deltares will conduct an intensive programme of
measurements to test whether the new groynes come up to our expectations.
The knowledge that will be acquired will also be extremely useful for projects
elsewhere in the world for improving both the drainage capacity and navigability
Innovations collected 13
Every year more than half a million people die as a result of drinking water
contaminated with faeces. A multiple of that - a quarter of a billion people -
become ill from the same cause. An inexpensive test for the intestinal
bacteria E. coli may offer a solution. Deltares is working on developing a
Inexpensive test for detecting
polluted drinking water
Sadly, the picture is all too familiar. Overcrowded refugee camps where people
are forced to live on top of each other, and where there is a shortage of just
about everything - especially safe drinking water. The result is an outbreak of
infectious diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid. At least some of
that misery could be avoided if people had a test for determining whether the
water they were drinking was contaminated with faecal matter.
Such tests do exist. They measure the levels of E. coli, an intestinal bacteria
which - like a canary in a mine - acts as an indicator for other illness-causing
intestinal bacteria. The only problem is that the test requires a well-equipped
laboratory and qualified personnel. Not something you generally find in a
refugee camp or in remote rural areas. In addition, it is a good 24 to 48 hours
before the test results are known.
In the context of the Corporate Social Responsibility programme, TNO has
developed, together with Deltares and Stichting Vluchteling (the Netherlands
Refugee Foundation), a laboratory prototype of a convenient test with which
untrained people or relief workers can test drinking water on site for the
presence of the intestinal bacteria E. coli. Not in two days, but within a few
14 Innovations collected
hours. The water is fed through by a number of filters and any E. coli is bound to
a protein-like substance. After adding a dye, the rate and extent of the
discoloration in the water indicates whether it can be drunk safely.
The test appears to work well in the laboratory. Field trials are now being carried
out in Afghanistan with prototypes of the test. At the same time, the prototype
is being further developed into a robust test that can be performed in a ‘foolproof’
manner in all conditions. For the subsequent steps - the certification of the test
and making it ready for production - Deltares is developing a business model to
enable it to find appropriate partners. As well as companies, these may also
include other institutions such as civil society organisations who can help
prepare the test for marketing.
Innovations collected 15
Both children and adults learn more effectively by playing games than by
spending hours poring over books. Together with partners, the Deltares
‘game team’ develops ‘serious games’ for such purposes as training dike
authority staff and soil investigators.
Playful learning with
In times of storm and spring tides, a dike alert is announced in the Netherlands.
This means that dike or levee inspectors must be out at all times of day and
night to inspect the many miles of dikes and quays for any signs of weakening.
Since a dike alert will only be in effect a few times a year, levee inspectors are
often water board employees who normally do other work. Volunteers, for
instance farmers, are also appointed.
To keep the inspectors’ knowledge and experience up to scratch, Deltares has
developed the game ‘Levee Patroller’, together with various water boards and the
Technical University of Delft. The computer screen shows levee inspectors a
realistic picture of what they might encounter during a levee patrol. Longitudinal
cracks in the asphalt of the quay, for example. Or water bubbling up on the
inside of the dike. They then must evaluate the phenomena and forward the
details to the field centre. Since the control centre determines when and where
what action should be taken, the information supplied must be as accurate and
as complete as possible.
During the development of the game input was provided by the five participating
water boards, while the Technical University of Delft carried out research into
the possibilities and limitations of ‘serious games’ for training people.
16 Innovations collected
One major advantage of a game is that it can be used to practice unusual
situations. It is also fun to play, which can be seen from the enthusiasm shown
by children for the condensed version of Levee Patroller at the NEMO science
centre in Amsterdam.
The rest of the world is also showing interest in the game. And not just for the
training of levee inspectors; the Dutch dike alert procedures - which are recorded
in the game - have proved to be an ‘eye opener’ for some water managers
Meanwhile, Deltares has now developed a second serious game, ‘Soil Investigator’,
at the request of and in cooperation with three soil investigation companies. In
the field a soil investigator must determine where a core penetration test should
take place; carry out or supervise the test itself, and evaluate the resulting graph
of the mechanical resistance of the soil. The ‘serious game’ helps soil investigators
to maintain their knowledge and experience at the required level and confronts
them with events that may occur in their everyday working lives.
Innovations collected 17
The nutrient-rich waters off the Dutch coast regularly give rise to algal
blooms, which are damaging for mussel growers. Deltares, together with
other organizations, has developed an innovative approach for predicting
Early warning for harmful
In the recent past, the sudden bloom of harmful algae led to the death of large
numbers of mussels stocks in the Oosterschelde. Foam on the beach caused by
algae also gave many beach tourists a bad day. As the body responsible for
Dutch coastal waters, the Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public
Works and Water Management) is therefore very keen to predict sudden algal
blooms. Regular sampling and testing of water samples off the coast has
proved, however, to provide insufficient information for this purpose.
Together with the Rijkswaterstaat, the Institute for Environmental Studies of
the Free University of Amsterdam and the company Water Insight, Deltares
has developed an approach with which algal blooms can be predicted more
accurately. This involves combining the data from water samples with data
from satellite images and models.
From a satellite, daily images of coastal algae concentrations can be derived
for the provinces of Zeeland and Holland. However, these data say nothing
about the likelihood of harmful algal blooms in the near future. Future algae
concentrations can be predicted based on the present concentrations,
18 Innovations collected
wind-driven transport and growth conditions (mainly nutrients, light and
temperature). These can be simulated in the ‘generic ecological model’
developed by Deltares.
By validating the model with the data from the water samples and the satellite
data, a reliable prediction can be issued on a daily basis as to whether or not
harmful algal blooms will be formed. Based on this, mussel growers can move
their mussels to safer areas and beach tourists will not be faced with unpleasant
This combination of different types of data and a model is also suitable for other
applications, such as reducing the environmental impact of oil spills or clouding
as a result of dredging activities. The combination of different types of data with
information from models can also supply a representative picture of the quality
of the ecosystem. Finally, the prediction of currents can assist in the targeted
searching for people or containers that have fallen overboard.
Innovations collected 19
UTES, the underground storage of thermal energy from the summer months,
can be combined very effectively with in-situ soil remediation and ground-
water management. Together with other parties, Deltares is conducting a
programme combining basic research and practical considerations.
Several birds with one stone
The Netherlands is the world leader in the storage of heat and cold in shallow
(up to 300 m deep) aquifers (water-bearing layers in underground sand deposits).
This year, the number of UTES installations will probably exceed a thousand.
Up to now, it has primarily been a question of individual projects, with a UTES
system being constructed for each office, hospital, residential area or campus.
Regional coordination prevents conflicts over the use of the available aquifers. It
also improves efficiency, because the needs of the different types of users for
heating and/or cooling (homes, offices, shopping centres) can be efficiently
matched with each other and with the supply. Potential providers of heat include
the chemical industry and greenhouse horticulture.
A preliminary survey, however, indicates that regional coordination offers many
more possibilities. Companies that are still discharging heat to surface water
would also be able to store it underground. This would therefore avoid the
thermal loading of the surface water - which is a major problem, especially in
20 Innovations collected
Another potential application, made more likely by regional coordination is
soil and groundwater remediation. Despite every effort, the Netherlands still
has more than half a million places where soil and/or groundwater have been
polluted. Instead of excavating and cleaning the soil, the authorities are
increasingly opting for in-situ remediation with the aid of soil micro organisms.
The disadvantage of bioremediation, however, is that often a very long time is
needed before the soil is clean. Storing heat in the soil can help, since the
biodegradation processes occur more quickly at higher temperatures.
To maximise the potential of UTES, research, policy and implementation must
all be well coordinated. Deltares has therefore formulated a programme to
enable the results of scientific and technical research to be implemented as
quickly and as effectively as possible in the practice of both the public and
private sectors. In addition to the initial parties (Wageningen University and
Research Centre, IF Technology and BioClear), provincial and municipal
authorities and energy and water companies have now also become involved
in the efforts to benefit from the opportunities that UTES offers and to
minimise the risks.
Innovations collected 21
For coastal management it is essential to have an accurate picture of water
depths close to the shore. BeachWizard ‘translates’ video images of breaking
waves into up to date water depths.
Beach Wizard gives up to date
information on the foreshore
Waves approach the beach and break on relatively shallow sand bars, one or
more which lie parallel to each other and the beach. Rijkswaterstaat in the
Netherlands would like to know where the breaker bars are located and how high
they are. In this way, they can determine the sand volume of the coastal strip
and hence decide whether or not to supply additional sand for coastal protection.
The safe of swimmers and surfers can benefit from this information, because the
breaker bars largely determine where hazardous rip currents occur.
In current practice, the location and height of breaker bars are recorded once a
year in the Netherlands at transects to the coast at intervals of 250 meters.
Because of the changing pattern of bars during the year, particularly just after
storms, variations on a smaller scale cannot be measured by traditional methods,
which are also expensive and require calm weather in the summer.
Deltares has developed a system in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey,
Oregon State University and the Naval Research Laboratory (the research division
of the U.S. Navy) that can record the current location and height of breaker bars
at close intervals in time and space. BeachWizard integrates a computer model
22 Innovations collected
with which the interplay of wind, sand and water along the coast is simulated
using data acquired from video images of breaking waves. The video images
have been created with the Argus system, a battery of video cameras with which
the coast at Egmond aan Zee can be monitored from the lighthouse. Similar
cameras can be found at about twenty other locations around the world.
Beach Wizard compares the breaking pattern visible in the video images with
the breaking pattern generated by the computer model and adjusts the seabed
in the model accordingly in small increments and for many different successive
images. If the computed waves and the corresponding video images are similar,
the calculated location and height of the breaker bars are also in line with the
reality, and used for the next model time step.
Thanks to BeachWizard, it is possible to be constantly up to date with the current
height and location of breaker bars and the associated currents, including
details of changes in the bar pattern which could not be discovered from the
Innovations collected 23
Joost van Kasteren
With contributions from
Huib de Vriend, Lucas Janssen,
Anouk Blauw, Irv. Elshoff, Ellen van Son,
John Lambert, Mindert de Vries,
Maarten van der Wal, Suzanne van Eekelen,
Mandy Korff, Huub Reijnaarts
A. other C. Brok van Huesker, Staartjes Photography
P.O. Box 177
NL-2600 MH Delft