A large proportion of the world's population live and work near coasts, lakes and rivers. Hydraulic infrastructure makes that possible. However, infrastructure can also be a burden on the environment, and it is designed to be used for many years into the future.
Society and the environment are changing rapidly and so the design of hydraulic infrastructure must be sustainable and adaptable. This thinking is at the heart of Building with Nature (BwN), an innovative approach to hydraulic engineering.
Building with Nature begins with the natural system and uses ecosystem services to meet society's need for infrastructure and encourages the development of nature at the same time. Examples of services provided by nature are the transport of sediment by water, or the attenuation of waves by mangrove forests, preventing the erosion of the coastline.
Incorporating nature in infrastructure design results in flexibility, adaptability and extra functionalities. New ecosystem services are created such as food supplies or space for leisure activities. And the costs are often lower than with traditional engineering solutions.
Building with Nature projects are not possible without interdisciplinary cooperation and active involvement of stakeholders. The earlier stakeholders are involved, the greater the chance of a successful result. Involving stakeholders at a later time also offers opportunities: improvements are possible at every stage of the design process.
This is an example of Building with Nature. Mangroves protect the coastline. Their roots keep the soil in place. More importantly, the trees stop the waves from attacking the shoreline and therefore reduce erosion.