Room for the Waal project reduces flood risk in the Nijmegen area

Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) and Hubert Bruls, Mayor of Nijmegen, today pulled a life-size thumb out of a dyke to illustrate the fact that the River Waal now has more room around Nijmegen. As a result, the water level of the river has dropped by 34 centimetres. The Nijmegen Room for the Waal project is one of the largest and most awe-inspiring of the projects being realised within the framework of Rijkswaterstaat’s national Room for the River flood risk management programme. By widening the river, the risk of Nijmegen and the surrounding upriver area becoming flooded, today or in the future, has been considerably reduced.

The Waal takes a sharp bend near Nijmegen and becomes narrower, forming a bottleneck. At times of high water, the river could not cope with the volume of water. To protect residents from flooding, the dyke has been moved 300 metres inland and a 4-kilometre-long secondary channel has been dug. This has created an island in the centre of the city. Three new bridges connect the island to Nijmegen-Noord. The work commenced in January 2013. Fifty households had to be relocated as a result of the flood risk management measures.

Minister Schultz: ‘A unique urban river park has been created in Nijmegen: the Spiegelwaal and the Veur Lent island are part of a plan in which flood risk management and urban quality go hand in hand. In the 1995 flooding, Nijmegen residents were up to their neck in water. Now, the Waal can cope with a similar volume of water with no problem at all. Nijmegen is prepared for future high water levels caused by climate change.’

River park

The flood risk management measures have been carried out in a manner that ensures they can add value to the city in other ways. The new area has become a place where there is room for living, nature, recreation, education, hospitality venues, and small-scale events. A new quay forms the beating heart of the river park. Mayor Bruls: ‘Here, we have turned a danger into an opportunity. With this project Nijmegen has acquired an additional, very special recreational area just a stone’s throw from the city centre.’

Grand opening

Once all the work has been completed, on 28 March 2016 (Easter Monday), everyone will be able to get acquainted with this new part of the city. On that day, which marks the start of the outdoor season, various activities will be taking place on and around the island to demonstrate the opportunities the new river park offers. 

Facts and figures:

  • Project area: 250 hectares
  • State budget: 358 million euros
  • Earthwork: 5.2 million cubic metres
  • 50 houses/business buildings demolished
  • 34 cm drop in the water level of the Waal

Special components of the Room for the Waal project:

  • Secondary channel: 4 kilometres long, 200 metres wide, 8 metres deep measured in respect of the ground level of the flood plain, 14 metres deep measured in respect of the height of the quay and the dyke
  • Waterproof cut-off wall to prevent the seepage situation in Lent from worsening, 1.6 km long, 20 metres deep, 80 cm wide
  • Unique island in the Waal with potential as an urban river park in the centre of Nijmegen with room for living, recreation, nature and culture
  • Existing railway bridge columns: a reinforcing wall around the three columns of the Spoorbrug (railway bridge dating from 1880); 23 metres deep and 1.5 metres wide
  • New dyke as well as a new quay of 1.2 kilometres in length
  • Three new bridges for access to and from the Veur Lent island
  • Archaeological and cultural-historical activities in the oldest city of the Netherlands with traces from Roman times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and World War II


  • 2011, New York: Waterfront Center Award
  • 2015: Nationale Bouwpluim (construction award)
  • 2015: Betonprijs (award for the use of concrete) for the Verlengde Waalbrug     (extended Waal Bridge)

Room for the River

Dutch rivers have to cope with high water levels increasingly more often. They have to discharge more rainwater and meltwater while there is little room for this between the dykes. As a result, the risk of flooding increases. Raising the height of dykes alone is not enough to control the increased flood risk. The water levels of the rivers have to be reduced. For this reason, Rijkswaterstaat, water authorities, municipalities and provinces have provided our rivers with more room in over thirty places. For example, dykes have been relocated, secondary channels have been dug, and flood plains deepened. In this way, we are working together on keeping the four million residents of the area around the major rivers safe, while at the same time creating an attractive living environment. 

Nijmegen embraces the Waal

In Nijmegen, development along both banks of the Waal is in full swing. Room for the Waal is one of the Waal River projects that are changing the city’s face dramatically. Since the end of 2013, Nijmegen-West and Nijmegen-Noord have been connected by the Oversteek, the new, visually dominant city bridge. Nijmegen-Noord is being further developed with the Hof van Holland residential and downtown area. In Nijmegen-West, the industrial area is being transformed into the Waalfront residential area. Finally, the Waalkade (quay) is getting a facelift. These projects ensure that the river no longer flows past Nijmegen but through it: “Nijmegen embraces the Waal”.