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Global Warming: Low-lying Netherlands is exporting its water-management expertise

Netherlands: famous for water-management expertise
Passengers arriving at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport might be alarmed to learn that they are landing on a runway that would  be — if nature took its course — 13 feet under water.

The fact that the runway is dry and the passengers can alight without getting their feet wet is thanks to more than a century of water management. For hundreds of years, the Dutch have been pumping, draining, building sea walls and dykes, fighting coastal erosion and reclaiming land as a matter of national survival because more than half their country lies below sea level.

These skills in keeping water at bay have served the domestic economy in the Netherlands well, but now, in an era of climate change and rising sea levels, they are driving a major export industry as well.
“There are so many cities around the world in deltas, or in coastal zones, very close to the water that are in jeopardy,” Piet Dircke, a Dutch water engineer, told Marketplace. “Millions of people in these big cities need to be protected against the impacts of floods and climate change, and the Dutch know how to do that,” Dircke said.

From Wuhan in China, to São Paulo in Brazil, to Miami, New Orleans and New York, big coastal and riverine cities around the world have been hiring Dutch companies to combat rising sea levels. Dircke’s employer, the giant engineering consulting firm Arcadis, has seen its water business revenues jump by 42 percent over the past five years to $515 million due to this increasing global demand for Dutch expertise.

The know-how extends well beyond pumping and draining. In Rotterdam harbor, an experimental  project has been unveiled that could help communities cope with rising sea levels, not by draining and reclaiming land but by “building on water.” 

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