Sorry for hydraulic works | The engineer

“No regrets” is one of the starting points when designing hydraulic engineering work. To learn from past experiences, Deltares and TU Delft began an inventory study of what made previous projects more or less successful.

You would think that anyone who builds a bridge, dam, or other work of water art would hope to look at it with pride later. But in the world of hydraulic engineering, there is another factor that is almost more important, which is that developers will not regret their creations afterwards. Under the motto “No Regret”, Rijkswaterschap, water boards, counties and municipalities are now paying a lot of attention to reducing the chance of regret.


But what exactly does regret mean in this context? And what can builders of water and bridges regret? To illustrate this, the research institute Deltares and TU Delft have a file Exploratory research It consists of interviews with six people with significant experience in civil engineering, infrastructure planning or spatial planning. What artworks do they regret and why? And what are they proud of?

future proof

Regret is often about having a little eye for the future when designing a work of art, It is clear from this inventory. This can lead, for example, to very high maintenance costs, or long-term damage to nature or the environment.

Looking at the purpose of the artwork too narrowly is also something to regret later: after all, not only the intended target group but also other users of the public space have to deal with the new landscape design.

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and cad

An example of the latter is Waalkade in Nijmegen, interviewed engineer Bas de Bruijn, who has always worked on water boards, says in the report. When the construction of the retaining wall there had to be improved, the water-retaining elements were no longer attached to the walls of the restaurants, but were placed three meters forward.

De Bruijn: ‘Before that improvement, you didn’t have to have a heart attack while the water was high and then an ambulance couldn’t get through. There is now space behind the retaining wall and you can also build it more easily. And if the water isn’t high, you won’t see it.


Engineers take pride when the above things work: If the structure is good for everyone, it’s sustainable – so it continues to operate in a changing future – and it turns out beautiful, too.


Sometimes engineers also mention a law or plan, when asked what they are most proud of. Like the Water Act, which states that all flood defense systems are tested to safety standards once every twelve years.

This prevents damage and weaknesses from showing up until it’s too late or it becomes too expensive to do something about it. But big, far-reaching projects like Room for the River are also mentioned.


De Bruijn in the report: ‘If you take a big measure at once, you don’t have to take a lot of small measures afterwards, and often you need to be less tough. My position remains that you must have the courage to look a little further into the future.

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It is very difficult to implement very strict measures that you cannot yet make solid with a lot of social resistance. But where it is useful and necessary, you should still dare to do so. Our children will be happy with that.

Opening image: Richard Brunsfield, via Unsplash

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