Gouda as ‘living lab’

Gouda as ‘living lab’

Land Subsidence

Gouda tackles the challenge of land subsidence

The old city centre of Gouda is still subsiding locally due to the consolidation of the soft peat and clay soil. Most of the historic homes and buildings built between the 16th and 20th centuries have no foundations and so they are subsiding as well. As a result, the water level has been steadily reduced in the past centuries. If it is lowered further, that will put buildings on wooden piles at risk. Some other parts of the city have subsided by decimetres due to dewatering and loading, and that process is continuing. The consequences are tangible and visible: structural damage and high maintenance costs on roads, railways, dikes, water pipes and buildings. One thing is certain: water management and land subsidence cannot be controlled in the long term using conventional measures and with the traditional distribution of roles and responsibilities between the municipality, water authority and the general public. Managing the levels of groundwater and surface waters cannot be seen in isolation from other measures. New strategies are needed to preserve living conditions and the historic buildings in inner cities in the long term.

Our role in Gouda and the result

Deltares is working with the Gouda city authority and the Rijnland water authority, as well as other parties, to identify possible technological and administrative solutions to protect the city centre of Gouda into the future. The first step is to improve our understanding of how the entire system works: why and where is the city subsiding, where is the water coming to the surface? We are investigating the relationships between the groundwater, the surface water in the canals, the drains, evaporation, the subsurface structure and land subsidence. We set up a monitoring network for the groundwater in 2016. The next step will be to see whether there are links between groundwater levels and land subsidence using, among other things, satellite measurements.

In addition, we have also mapped out the needs with respect to information and data with the various stakeholders such as STOWA, KCAF, Rioned, local residents, the water authority and the Gouda city authorities. It emerged that the most urgent wish of public and private bodies was to set up a 'damage desk' to determine the extent of the problem. This is important in terms of quantifying the affordability of the management strategy and any effects/side-effects.

Gouda is a 'living lab' where knowledge and experience come together and where we are going beyond innovative technological solutions: we are also looking at how we can anchor land-subsidence solutions in policy measures. Where are the social, organisational or administrative boundaries? We tackle land subsidence on the basis of a range of challenges – flooding, damage to foundations and damage to infrastructure – because these factors are inextricably linked. The approach to land subsidence in Gouda could also inspire other cities in the Netherlands and other countries to adopt a new approach and to tackle groundwater management and land subsidence in different ways.

Measuring and monitoring groundwater and subsidence are crucial to understanding how surface water, groundwater and subsidence interact in Gouda. What adjustments are needed to limit the problems and what are the results?
Frans van de Ven
Deltares expert on urban water management
Drastic policies are sometimes needed to ensure an adequate response to land subsidence. As the city authority, we are happy that Deltares decided to take on the challenge. In the 'living lab', they are collecting local knowledge and proactively contributing their international experience to the search for solutions.
Arianne Fijan
Senior policy advisor on Public Space for the city of Gouda

For this project Deltares has collaborated with the following partners:

  • Gemeente Gouda
  • Technische Universiteit Delft
  • Platform slappe bodem
  • Royal HaskoningDHV
  • Rijkswaterstaat
  • KCAF
  • Wareco Wageningen
  • Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland

Want to know more about this project?

Frans van de Ven
Expert on urban water management
  • +31 (0)88 335 78 26 / +31 (0)6 51 83 50 10