This wet infrastructure forms a complex system that ensures that 60% of our low hinterland is not flooded and remains accessible and livable. The impressive hydraulic structures, such as the Oosterscheldekering, the Maeslantkering and the IJmuiden sea lock, are built to be a robust and reliable system for generations to come.

Replacement task for wet hydraulic engineering structures

Locks, weirs, storm surge barriers, and pumping stations are the control buttons of the water system and make it possible to combine the various functions of our water system. Each wet hydraulic engineering structure forms an important link in a large network. If one structure fails, it immediately affects the performance delivered by the "wet" infrastructure as a whole.

In the Netherlands, many hydraulic engineering structures (such as lock gates, weirs, and pumping stations) were constructed during the 20th century and generally built with an expected design horizon of 100 years. Since then, the required quality level of the infrastructure to keep our country safe, accessible, and livable has been maintained through intensive management and maintenance.

Due to wear and tear, aging of the materials used, climate change, changing usage functions and requirements, and adjusted standards, many of the Dutch hydraulic engineering structures are urgently in need of replacement, improvement, or renovation in the coming decades.

When the time comes to replace a hydraulic engineering structure, it is also the perfect time to look at and optimize the entire coherence of the wet infrastructure

Esther van Baaren, Expert Infrastructure Renewal and Renovation

By looking about 50 to 100 years ahead in the decision-making process on how and when to replace, improve, or renovate, knowing the changing functional requirements of the entire water system, and taking into account the consequences of climate change, hydraulic engineering structures can be adapted to changing circumstances that are future-proof.

Even just having more knowledge about the structural state of a hydraulic engineering structure and its role within the water system provides a basis for extending its lifespan. A deeper understanding of the role it plays, together with neighboring structures, in the functioning of the water system, the degradation of materials, and its operating principles, provides better insight into its vulnerability to changes, potential problems, and how they can be prevented or solved.

In short, a better understanding of the object can contribute to the extension of its (functional) lifespan and thus the resilience of the water system.

Research by the Economic Institute for Construction (EIB) shows that a total of €250 billion will be needed for the replacement of Dutch infrastructure until 2030. In the coming decades, the replacement of hydraulic engineering structures is on the agenda in the Netherlands. This is a task that will have enormous consequences for the daily traffic and use of Dutch waterways.

Replacement and renovation of hydraulic engineering structures

Deltares investigates the replacement and renovation of hydraulic engineering structures:

  • The (functional) relationship between the structure that needs replacement and the water system (i.e., the various water networks) to which it belongs. This provides insight into which structures have a critical function in the larger context.
  • The (technical) wear and aging (degradation) of the structure. How long can a lock, weir, or storm surge barrier last? Which forces and processes determine aging, and what influence can we (still) exert on them?
  • Which replacement has priority in which location over time? This makes it possible to set up the most adaptive timeline possible, specifying when replacement is necessary. And, especially with large uncertainties about developments and degradation, to keep as many options open as possible. What is feasible, what is affordable, and where can we achieve savings?

Deltares also provides support (with scientific knowledge) for the management, maintenance, and construction of hydraulic engineering structures. It can be challenging for asset managers to do this without negative impact on the adjacent infrastructure (damage) and without excessively hindering the use of the surrounding network.

To ensure optimal long-term functioning of hydraulic structures, it is crucial to obtain as many new insights as possible that extend their (functional or technical, and thus economic) lifespan. Even for objects such as the Delta Works, which will not be replaced quickly, it is essential to be aware of their performance and durability. This can be achieved through research, monitoring, and analysis of the object's condition, as well as regular maintenance and inspection.


We collaborate with (and on behalf of) governments, companies, and knowledge institutions to conduct research and provide technical and policy advice on hydraulic structures in the Netherlands.

We also work closely with TNO and MARIN and administrator Rijkswaterstaat in the Wet Infrastructure Knowledge Program. A knowledge program in which the specialized knowledge of the partners comes into its own. In addition, Deltares is an active member of the international knowledge network for storm surge barriers ISTORM.

Specialised knowledge as a basis

Deltares plays a major role in assessing/testing the safety and functional lifespan of the civil parts of hydraulic structures. The basis for this is the in-depth knowledge of our scientists and our decades-long experience. We use our physical scale model research facilities and numerical models, as well as innovative technologies such as digital twins.

  • Deltares supports infrastructure managers with state-of-the-art civil engineering knowledge in complex decision-making about the renewal and renovation of hydraulic structures, in various stages of asset management, and as part of a strategy towards a future-proof water system. This also includes the economic aspect.
  • Deltares advises and supports governments and contractors in the design, construction, and management and maintenance of hydraulic structures. With our expertise, we can devise smart solutions from multiple disciplines (including hydrodynamics, geotechnics, ecology) for high-quality and cost-effective hydraulic structures.
  • Deltares contributes to ensuring the safety, reliability, and sustainability of wet infrastructure, now and in the future, through applied scientific research.

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