‘Need more natural water area in southern Limburg’

Organize the mountain landscapes of southern Limburg in a more natural way to better retain water. ARK Nature Development supports this in response to the flooding of the Geul and Gulp rivers in July.

According to Nature, what happened a month ago made it clear that new measures against flooding were needed. Biologist Hetty Mertens of ARK Nature Development says that more water space should be created in areas through which rivers such as the Geul and Gulp flow. “We advocate a more natural layout of the plateaus and slopes in southern Limburg and less intensive land use. As a result, the water is better stored.”

Hetty Mertens

More forests and rugged pastures
Soon, the torrential rains that fell in mid-July fell from the highlands to the valleys. Mertens says there are many agricultural fields on the hills that are being used extensively. “They are the least positive for water management, because raindrops fall with mud. This causes a rise in water peaks and mudslides in valleys.” In addition, the grasslands used for agriculture are drained here and there. Drainage channels and channels also ensure quick drainage.

The solution, Mertens says, is to create more woodland and rougher grassland with forests. The natural vegetation of trees and shrubs ensures good water infiltration. Rainwater can immediately penetrate into the soil and then slowly replenish the groundwater. This reduces the chance of tidal waves occurring in river valleys. In any case, these tidal waves will be less high.”

Served multiple purposes
Meertens points out that organizing the landscape of southern Limburg in a more natural way is not only important from the point of view of the Water Mountains. “This also boosts biodiversity, creates new opportunities for recreation and tourism, as you do something about the problem of nitrogen and carbon dioxide emissions.2. It kills several birds with one stone. It would be a nice job to work on.”

According to Mertens, more floodplains are needed in river valleys, according to the Grensmaas Project approach. Where possible, focus on natural flood plains, removing some of them from the banks. The high water can then extend into the view. The floodplain is an interesting option to research, especially for the Geul Valley. The valley plain of Valkenburg is very wide.

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Water basins little used in heavy rain
In the past decades, about four hundred aquariums have been built in southern Limburg. These are the pits along which the dam is located. Mertens says it is not wise to focus primarily on these rainwater buffers. Troughs can help during heavy rain, as long as they are in a good location, as this is not always the case. The problem is that in a rough state like July, they flood. Then a lot of water comes out at once. There is also sometimes the danger of a wet dam bursting.”

overflowing waterproofingAnd rainwater storages only perform half the function. “After the rain stops, they are quickly emptied out to be ready to shower again. So the water is not collected in the soil. In times of drought they are left empty-handed.”

Buy or exchange land
The natural approach requires governments, landowners and farmers to take advantage of water retention opportunities on their lands. Mertens: “You have to work from the land. For example, as a water board or county, look at buying or exchanging land to create clusters of areas where water can be stored. Make sure you have a good budget to buy land from farmers who want to quit “.

Mertens says cooperation with eastern and southern neighbors is also important. Especially with Belgium because Gail and Gil grew up in Wallonia. As Dutch people, we cannot tell the Belgians what to do. We can show how we treat water differently and inspire them with it.”

With funds from the European Union and the Province of Limburg, among others, ARK Nature Development has set up projects in the border region, together with Flemish and Walloon nature organisations. Mertens says about 160 hectares of farmland has been purchased on both sides of the border in Drielandenpark. “We designed the area naturally and partially wet.” More than 200,000 trees and shrubs have been planted. Water intrusion has also been improved by measures such as re-wetting spring lawns by removing drainage and digging cavities.

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more information
A message from ARK Nature Development
NS2O Current: Limburg Water Action Plan
NS2O Current: the stream of the wide valley approach
NS2Current O: water retention by farmers

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