An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany

Flooding and Drought

Alana Nastold

It might seem paradoxical, but flooding, the overabundance of water, and drought, the lack of water, can have more in common than one might think. In times of climate change, both topics are inseparable. While rainfalls are getting scarcer, sea levels are rising. In countries like the Netherlands, where about a quarter of the territory is below sea level, this is a particularly dangerous trend. The regions concerned are protected by dykes and dams, which are often constructed of peat. This material has a low unit weight compared to clay or sand dykes. It is therefore particularly vulnerable to drought. In 2003, a peat dyke failed after an unusually hot and dry summer had dried out the peat itself. The by now far too light dyke was simply pushed aside by the waters that flooded the village of Wilnis. Thus, it was the lack of rain water that caused flooding. Even short-term flooding leads to the salinization of the soil, making it difficult or impossible to grow crops. But even with intact dykes, drought causes salinization: on the one hand, the lack of freshwater often forces farmers to use brackish waters instead; on the other hand, rising sea levels, combined with a reduced downward pressure by freshwater, result in the intrusion of saline waters into groundwater resources. This further exacerbates the problem for agriculture. Good water management is therefore a critical task for a sustainable development.The video addresses the problem of the careless consumption and shortage of water.

Sources: Van Baars, Stefan, “Dutch Peat Dyke Failure during the Dry Summer of 2003”, SEC2008, (2008).

Gould, Iain et al., “Salinization Threats to Agriculture across the North Sea Region”, Future of Sustainable Agriculture in Saline Environments, eds. Katarzyna et al., Boca Raton, (2022): 71-86.