It’s still very dry now, but showers will come someday. Onlanden ensures that Groningen keeps its feet dry, and the area serves as a water storage facility when there is a lot of rain. Because more heavy rain is expected, there are plans to store more water in De Onlanden.
Climate change is causing very dry summers, but very wet periods are also expected. Since 2012, De Onlanden, located on the border of Groningen and Drenthe, has been collecting water in case of heavy rain. Six months ago, De Onlanden was still completely waterlogged. “This was a very difficult situation,” says Marek van Leeuwen of Nordersieglfest’s Water Board. “In February, a lot of rain fell in succession in a short period of time. De Onlanden did what he had to do; collecting the water that flowed from the Drents Plateau down Groningen. But based on KNMI climate models, a moment is passing Come on and De Onlanden is no longer satisfied.”
Together with the three northern districts and the other water boards, the Nordzijlfst Water Board wants to create an additional 5.2 million cubic meters of water, and the collection capacity is now 7.5 million cubic metres. This shall be done within the present limits of De Onlanden, by raising piers and placing embankments, which are raised if necessary.
The procedures for constructing an additional water storage began in March of this year. Documents were available for inspection in the spring and responses could be submitted, and information evenings were also held for interested parties. Responses to responses are now being drafted. Additional water space should be ready in 2025, but exactly how it will be done: it is not yet clear. Much depends on it: in recent years the area has developed into a nature reserve of more than 2,500 hectares, which benefits many aquatic animals. Otters have also found De Onlanden and sea eagles and passersby have been observed.
Van Leeuwen: “We have to take action, the longer we wait, the greater the chance that Groningen will one day get wet. De Onlanden is in the short term. And in the long term, we keep talking and researching: what else could we still do? Do we? Are there other places where we can store water? This is under investigation, but it is not happening quickly.”
The water peak will be absorbed as De Onlanden expands. But Natuurmonumenten mainly insists on collecting the water before it flows into De Onlanden. “By raising dams and piers, you solve the problem of peak load. This is necessary, but in a severe drought like the severe drought we’re seeing again this year, it’s pointless,” says Fred Brack of Natuurmonumenten. “The sustainable, climate-resistant option is: to keep water longer in the overall waterways. So that the effect of the natural sponge, as before, comes into play again. Then the water storage capacity is increased at peak moments, but by that time it is held for longer.” You also have more water available in the entire river basin during a drought.It is good that the Water Board makes such plans, but due to the severe drought in recent years, we would prefer to see the result earlier than “after 2025”.
Once the extra space is created, the goal is to work with the compartments, as the frail nature will only store extra water at the last possible moment. There are endangered species that cannot stay under water (for a long time). Van Leeuwen: “De Onlanden simply has a double function. On the one hand, an environmental value that we have to deal with carefully. And on the other, a ‘flood safety mission’ in extreme cases. We have to find a balance in that.”
Work on the area will begin once the environmental impact assessment procedures and project decision are completed, possibly in the next year.
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