Delta Works or Zuiderzee Works of Netherlands

Fifty years of toil gave rise to this blessed man made genius in helping preserve life and more.

Engineering high and a marvel of man’s perseverance and intelligence was created in May 1997 when the Delta works or Zuiderzee works were completed to perfection. Safety of Netherlands coast lay in the balance due to the high level of the seas and the guaranteed possibility of storms hitting the mainland.

The need for dams and dikes:

Netherlands is a low lying country with twenty percent of its land threateningly below the sea level. The statistics can be even more depressing with the 21% of the population of the nation living below sea level and 50 % of the land lying a meter above the level of the sea. But an elaborate system of dikes and polders helped in the reclamation of land.


Dikes are artificial or natural slopes or walls at the coast line used to regulate the water levels. Polders are low lying land tracts which are surrounded by dikes which helps in managing the higher sea levels or storms. The Delta works or Zuiderzee works are the largest hydraulic projects of engineering to be undertaken by the Dutch in the twentieth century.

A brief history:

Studies as early as 1937 established the urgent need to protect the many parts of the nation. The river mouth regions of Rhine, the Schedlde and Meuse were densely populated and it was proving difficult to strengthen the old dikes or build new ones. One of the solutions was to close all the river mouths of Eastern Schelde and Haringvliet amongst others. This was then named as Deltapan and over the many years transformed into the Delta Works.

The river mouths of Botlek and Brieles Gat were sealed in the year 1950. Brielse Maas thus became a freshwater basin. This helped protect the area and even supply water. In the following decades dam construction was to be undertaken. But an infamous flood prevented this in 1953 when two thousand people died and lot of the land was inundated with flood water. Drastic measures were the need of the hour and something needed to be done and quick!

What is Delta works and Zuiderzee works?

The Delta works were a series of many constructions which were conducted between 1950 and 1997. It consists of dams, locks, dikes, storm surge barriers and levies. They function in unison to protect the coastal area from being swept away by the sea and also shorten the coast of the low lying nation.

Zuiderzee Works are also a system of Dams, water drainage systems and land reclamation. The Dams were constructed on the Zuiderzee which is a large and shallow North Sea inlet. The Delta works or Zuiderzee works collectively help in protection against floods and creating land for agriculture.


How do they help?

The Delta works has aided in the improvement of the complete water balance in the delta region. The streams of the region can be easily manipulated thanks to the massive constructions of major dams and it’s auxiliary. Many kinds of sluices (rapid force of water) make it possible for fresh water to be allowed in and the excess or polluted water to be carried out.

The Delta works offers many advantages other than shortening the length of the dikes by a massive 700 kilometers. The supply of agricultural fresh water was bettered. This was the result of the border of the fresh water and the salt water being moved further to the west. The fresh water and salt water division now needs les freshwater to be balanced.

The excess of the water is transported to the northern Netherlands in direction of the Ijssel Lake. The freshwater helped improve the water conditions here. Another significance of the project was the boost to the traffic between the peninsulas and the islands. For ages the Zeeland province had been isolated from the mainland.

Delta works supports shipping on inland waterways. A contract was signed between the Netherlands and Belgium for regulation of shipping between ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. This agreement was taken into consideration during the construction of the delta works. The Delta works have even influenced latest developments in the area of recreation and nature.

During the construction of the Delta works some of the nature reserves were damaged beyond repair. But new reserves of nature have blossomed at various sites of the project. The many dry shores are being used for recreational purposes. A long standing debate is whether nature has benefited from the massive undertaking. Water management and its durability is the need of the hour with elements such as nature, safety and prosperity playing an important aspect.