City Climate Corner

Rotterdam: Climate proofing a city

Episode Summary

Rotterdam, and The Netherlands in general, have a long history of fighting water. But how are they adapting to climate change where they can have both too much and too little water? We interview Johan Verlinde, Program Manager for Rotterdam's Climate Adaptation Plan about their efforts to make Rotterdam climate proof by 2030. This is an episode coming from Abby's summer trip touring sustainability infrastructure in several European cities.

Episode Notes

Rotterdam, and The Netherlands in general, have a long history of fighting water. But how are they adapting to climate change where they can have both too much and too little water? We interview Johan Verlinde, Program Manager for Rotterdam's Climate Adaptation Plan about their efforts to make Rotterdam climate proof by 2030. This is an episode coming from Abby's summer trip touring sustainability infrastructure in several European cities.


Episode Transcription


Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner. Hey, Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:31

Hey, Larry. 

Larry Kraft  00:32

So what are you thinking about this week?

Abby Finis  00:35

Well, our episode that's coming out is going to focus a lot on climate adaptation. And I think that it's, well, it's never a bad time, I guess, to talk about climate adaptation. But it just seems particularly relevant. With the flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, and the ongoing water quality issues there, thinking about climate adaptation, not just in terms of adapting to the changing climate, but also, how do we address these major major environmental racism, lack of funding and investment and communities in our country? And, also prepare them for being able to handle these kinds of flood events?

Larry Kraft  01:19

Yeah, it kind of harkens back a bit to the Duck Hill episode. It's not just things happening in Jackson, it almost becomes a drumbeat that you don't notice as much stuff about the drought at West and forest fires, which seemed to just get worse and worse. But things are happening outside of the country as well that are just devastating.

Abby Finis  01:43

Yeah, Pakistan, a third of the country is underwater from major flooding over the last month or so where they got like 67 inches of rain. 

Larry Kraft  01:54

It's unfathomable. And 1/3 of 1/3 of anything underwater, think about I can't imagine having 1/3 of St. Louis Park underwater, or 1/3 of Minnesota. I was reading they had 10x, the normal monsoon rain. 

Abby Finis  02:10


Larry Kraft  02:11

Which is already a lot of rain, right? But 10x, my gosh.

Abby Finis  02:14

I think that there's a few things happening. There's adjusting to extreme weather that we can manage. If we prepare adequately, and we invest in communities that haven't seen investment. We can do that. We can add more natural spaces to our urban areas, we can put in more flood control measures, more urban heat island strategies. Those are some of the things that we can do. And then there's these events like Pakistan or these major droughts that are happening, that are gonna take bigger solutions and more aid and helping these countries and cities that are bearing the brunt of that. And oftentimes, as we know, they're not the ones who caused climate change, right, or they contributed much, much less.

Abby Finis  02:56

The carbon footprint per capita in Pakistan is rather small.

Abby Finis  03:11

Yeah. I think that there's a ton that we need to do locally, and a lot more globally. And, you know, as you said, it's like, all of these things are happening. And it's sort of just like oh well more fires, more floods over here. And like, we're sort of hearing about them. But it's not major news anymore, because it's happening so much and...

Larry Kraft  03:34

Yeah, it does speak to needing government at all levels to have this as a thing that they're thinking about regularly. And we're hearing a great story today about Rotterdam and things they're doing but state, federal and beyond. 

Abby Finis  03:50


Larry Kraft  03:50

Actually, climate change is not going to let us not think about it. 

Abby Finis  03:53

Exactly. It should be at the forefront of your mind. And, this example with Rotterdam is a great example of a city that is a good portion of it is below sea level. And they've got to think about water in new and creative ways. The Netherlands itself has been at the forefront. It's cool to hear their approach and how they've been rethinking how they manage water.

Larry Kraft  04:17

And we're doing this because this was the first stop on your Europe tour. 

Abby Finis  04:22

That's right. 

Larry Kraft  04:23

The Netherlands is a soft spot in my heart as I spent a lot of time there when I was younger.

Abby Finis  04:28

Yeah, first stop. I loved it. You can get anywhere you don't need a car. It's just super easy to bike to take a electric transit.

Larry Kraft  04:37

Let's listen. 

Abby Finis  04:37

Let's do it.

Start of interview

Abby Finis  04:41

Today we are speaking with Johan Verlinde, Program Manager for Rotterdam Climate Adaptation Plan. Welcome to City Climate Corner. Can you start with a quick introduction of yourself and your role with the city?

Johan Verlinde  04:53

Yeah, my name is Johan Verlinde I already live for 15 years in Rotterdam. Work for the city for 10 years, always in the field of water. I have a background in water management and hydrology. And since 2017, I'm working on climate adaptation and the launch of our latest adaptation strategy called Rotterdam Weather wise was in 2019. So that's what I've tried to do in the city, really motivates everyone to work on climate adaptation within the city of Rotterdam. So all the civil servants but also the citizens, the private sector, to make our city climate proof, which is really, really necessary, especially for a city like Rotterdam. 

Abby Finis  05:37

Well, I really loved my visit to Rotterdam. And there's great biking infrastructure, electric buses, the canals and green space. And it's just a cool city. Could you tell us a little bit about what it's like to live in Rotterdam? 

Johan Verlinde  05:50

It's a really cool city. It's the second biggest city in the Netherlands next to Amsterdam, of course. And we live right next to the river and the sea. So water is really in the veins of our city. So we have the river Muse running to the city, a lot of port activity used to be within the city, but gradually that moved towards the sea. We are a city below sea level, which is quite challenging; up to minus six meter below sea level. And I think we are a modern city and really diverse city. We have 160 nationalities living in Rotterdam. So it's diverse in that sense. 

The Netherland and water management

Abby Finis  06:31

You touched on it a little bit, but the Netherlands is very well known for its approach to water management. Can you talk a little bit more about that relationship with water and how you came to be kind of the world's foremost leader on managing water? 

Johan Verlinde  06:44

Well, we always say Rotterdam is a delta city. But I think the Netherlands is a delta, we are a big Delta. Big parts of our country are below sea level. Well, we are really used to fighting the water. We had the big floods in 53 where big parts of our country suffered from flooding. And since then, we have a huge program called the Delta Program to protect our country from flooding with big dikes, levees, storm surge barriers. And in that sense, people in the Netherlands feel really safe because we are very well protected from the water. It will always have a sense of seeing water as an enemy. And I think gradually we are now seeing that water also can become a friend if we do it in the right way. So we really have to also work on that. So making sure that citizens of the Netherlands also see water as friends instead of enemy. 

Larry Kraft  07:42

Water as a friend. I think that's fascinating. What does that mean water as a friend? 

Johan Verlinde  07:49

You know, if you look at water only as a threat, you want to build dikes, storm surge barriers to keep the water out. But now we also see that one thing is it's really nice to live next to the water to make use of the water for recreation to sail on the water. But we also see that heat and drought is becoming more and more a problem in a city like Rotterdam or in the Netherlands, in general. We are heating up. So we want to make the city livable, which means that we should embrace the water, make sure that if there's a rain event, do not drain the city as soon as possible, but really harvest the rainwater to make use of it in drier times. And also to make the city greener in that sense to cool down the city, but also the green, it needs water. So we really should see water as a precious resource. So really embrace it in that sense, and not getting rid of it as soon as possible. 

Larry Kraft  08:48

I just read something like a couple days ago, that there are some homes in the Netherlands, that many of them are built on pylons or piles into the ground. And those wooden piles are used to being wet. 

Johan Verlinde  09:01


Larry Kraft  09:01

Some of them have dried out so much that they're deteriorating in a different way than they would if they were wet. 

Johan Verlinde  09:07

Yeah, that's huge problem. I actually had a problem with my own house. I have bought a house seven or eight years ago, built in 1896. So it's really old, with a foundation of wooden poles. And actually our groundwater table dropped quite significantly. The poles became dry, they started to rot and I had to install new foundation under my house, which is a huge investment. And a lot of older homes in the city have that problem. And it's actually the responsibility of the homeowner, but it's a huge investment to do so not only in Rotterdam, but a lot of cities in the Netherlands. 

Larry Kraft  09:46

What a crazy thing to be in a time when simultaneously having to worry about sea level rise about more water and then not enough water. So I like your thing of we have to think of water as our friend as well. 

Johan Verlinde  09:59

Yes, and at the same time, it is still a threat, especially for Rotterdam. Like eighty five percent of our city is below sea level, up to minus six meters below sea level. And we build all those dikes and storm surge barriers and we feel really safe. But the rain falls on the other side of the dike. And it's really like a Betta that is filling up in case of heavy rainfall. And we have a nice drain system, eleven other pumping stations to keep the city dry. And we have to do that. But at the same time, make sure that we have enough water in dry periods, which is becoming more and more frequently a problem in our city. 

Rotterdam as a climate proof city

Larry Kraft  10:40

Yeah, that's a good segue. Rotterdam has an adaptation plan, and we read that the goal is to be climate proof by 2030. What does it mean to be climate proof?

Johan Verlinde  10:54

Yes. The number one question, which also is tough to answer. But the thing is, our goal is that we want to accelerate adaptation. And we want to make sure that everyone who does something when impacts to the city does it with climate adaptation in mind. So that's our goal in 2030. Well, we reach the goal that everyone knows what they have to do. So it's the real estate developer, that's going to build a huge building, make sure that it's has water retention on the roof, or a green roof or green facades. 

Johan Verlinde  11:33

We as a city, if we do something to the public space maintenance to our roads, then we think about okay, do we need a road everywhere? Can we add some green or some water retention? But also, the citizen of our city who does something to his garden thinks about, Okay, do I need a fully paved garden? Or can I add some green to it? And that's our goal, to make sure that everyone who does something in our city, makes sure that it's climate proof and climate adaptive.

Larry Kraft  12:02

So when you get to 2030, how will you know if you've done it?

Johan Verlinde  12:08

That's a good question. Well, the easiest thing is what we can do as a local governments. So we put a lot of effort into doing a lot of projects in our city. It means we need a lot of money. And our city council said okay, climate adaptation is really important so for the next few years, until 2020, we have enough budget to do projects in the city. 

Johan Verlinde  12:32

At the same time, we have subsidies for everyone with a building. So you want to do something to your roof to your facade to your garden, add green, add water storage, you get a subsidy from the city. And we put a lot of effort in face to face communication, because we think that's really important. So we have a neighborhood approach where we say, okay, every neighborhood in the city is completely different. Other people are living there. But also climate challenges are completely different. So you really need a tailor made approach for every neighborhoods. 

Johan Verlinde  13:05

So we started talks with the neighborhoods. We tell them, those are the climate challenges you are facing, we as a city are going to do a lot on that on that location. And here's what you can do, and how can we help you. So also reach out to the citizens and initiatives on every level in the city. And it's not only about investment in huge civil engineering projects, but also the softer side with communication. That's also really important.

Implementing climate adaptation efforts

Larry Kraft  13:35

You're leading this climate adaptation effort. So what's your approach to implementation? What resources do you have to support it? Budget staff, that kind of thing. 

Johan Verlinde  13:46

Well, we work within the political term. So after every election, we have a new executive council, and they say okay those are going to be the priorities for the next four years. And most recently, in March, we had elections. So we have a new city council and new boards and they said, okay, climate adaptation is really important. So for the next four years, we have a budget of 45 million euros to execute projects within the city. And that's a lot. 

Larry Kraft  14:17


Johan Verlinde  14:17

And it's also very much needed, but it's a lot. And the next four years, we have a goal of doing fifty climate adaptive projects within the city, which is a huge goal, we are going to do it. And that's really important to also show in the city that things are going on, and leading by example. I think that's really, really important. So it begins by the politicians to show that it's really important. That's the starting point.

Larry Kraft  14:47

What are the barriers you find to implementation of climate adaptation efforts?

Johan Verlinde  14:54

You need a lot of people to work with you. A climate adaptive project in the city is something where a lot of people are working on because you want to add green, you want to do something with the roads, you need alterations to the sewer system. So it's a combination of a lot of departments working together. So coordination, and making sure those people work together, that's quite a barrier. It takes so much time to make sure that people talk with each other, and look beyond their own silo. And it took so much time to make sure those people work together. 

Johan Verlinde  15:33

We had a thing with permeable pavement. So pavement where the water can flow through the stones. And we said, okay, it's such an opportunity because if we implement it in a lot of locations, in Rotterdam, we need less sewer because the water just infiltrates and doesn't flow to the sewage system, which reduces the investments on the sewer system. But the road department said okay, but those tiles are more expensive. And also the maintenance is more expensive, because we have to vacuum and clean our roads in order to to make burial pavement work. But if you look at a business case is much cheaper to invest in parallel pavement. But if you only look from a road perspective, you say it's more expensive and don't do it. So it took so much time to make sure that people see each other perspective and understand each other. And so you need a really good story, to motivate your own colleagues, but also the rest of the city.

Larry Kraft  16:31

I'm on city council here in the city where I live. And a few of us have asked about permeable pavement. In a few places, we've done some things and I don't know that the soils underneath our roads are right for it. But I wonder that question of are we looking broad enough?

Johan Verlinde  16:49

Ah well in our experiences, usually it's hard to broaden your perspective. So that takes some efforts.

Larry Kraft  16:57

It sounds like a lot of your job.

Johan Verlinde  16:59

Yeah, a lot of the job is actually about communication and having a good story for everyone, for your colleagues, for the politicians, and for the citizens. And also for the private sector; real estate developers will also play a big role in climate proofing the city. Rotterdam is rapidly developing, we have to build 50,000 new houses before 2040, which means that Rotterdam is growing rapidly, and if you don't do it in the right way, it means more concrete, concrete and concrete and more problems for climate.

Larry Kraft  17:34

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Successes - water plazas and more

Abby Finis  17:51

Let's talk about some of those successes. There's a number of projects that have been completed around the city. Could you highlight a couple of more key projects that you think are some of the most successful?

Johan Verlinde  18:03

The water plazas are quite an important, unique selling point, I think for Rotterdam and a lot of other cities already implemented this. The idea of the water plaza started around 15 years ago, where we said okay, we need more water storage in our city. We see that rainfall intensities are increasing, our sewer system cannot cope with it. So let's start retaining the water. Then the question was okay, but it's only raining five percent of the time. So if we're going to invest in large scale, water retention below the surface, it's empty ninety five percent of the time. So maybe we can think about a more interesting way to do so. And then the idea of the water Plaza came up together with the architecture firm, The Urbanista. And we said okay, can we alter the public space to five percent of the time catch the water, but being an interesting place in the other ninety five percent of the time. So that's what's happening in the water plazas. 

Johan Verlinde  19:05

We have ten of these around the city, but the biggest one is called the Bentham Square. And those are three reservoirs where 1.6 million litres of water can be stored, but when it's dry, it can be used for sports. It can be used for skating, BMX-ing, there's a stage for performances, and there's even a church near the water square and they do surfaces on Sunday when it's sunny on one of the reservoirs. It's not only about the technical solution and a better public space, but also the mindset because we designed this totally together with the citizens and what the plaza was for us is a starting point. Before that, it was always the city knows what's good for the citizens. And starting with the water plaza we invited the potential users of the square to design the square together with us so not come with a finalized plan or what do you think about it, but really, okay, we have an idea, and now with every climate adaptive projects we do in the city, that's the way we work. 

Johan Verlinde  20:07

It's really beneficial for the water storage in the city. It makes the public space attractive, and it's a motivator for the people living there to see how important climate adaptation is. But also motivated them may be to also do something themselves. We have now ten of these around the city, they all look completely different because all citizens want something different. But still, the water plaza is about catching water and getting rid of the water. I just told you that we should make use of the water in dry periods. That's always the problem, because it's raining one time and a few months later, it's dry, can we connect those dots? 

Johan Verlinde  20:45

And that's what we're doing at the moment with our urban water buffers, where we harvest the storm water when it's raining. And then we clean the water with plants. And then we pump it's 1530 meters deep to the first aquifer where we can store the water. It's cool there, not so much oxygen, so managers don't have an effect. And we bump it up as soon as we need it. And we now implement this with a soccer stadium where the soccer pitch is irrigated with rainwater, but also on different locations in the city, where it's really useful to not use the water from the tap, but use rainwater instead. And it's really looking in the future because drier periods will become longer and more frequent. So we want to make use of the rainwater. So I think that's for us the new, really important projects, which we'll see more and more within our city in the next few years.

Abby Finis  21:43

Yeah, I think it's really cool demonstration projects. And what stands out to me is going to the soccer stadium and checking out the rain garden. We really had a search for it, it's really not very big. It's a small space that collects a lot of water from the surrounding sidewalks and parking lots and stuff. But it is surveying this much larger reservoir underneath the stadium. So much is happening that you don't see. How can we just do that all over cities? These small things build up to have such a big impact.

Johan Verlinde  22:12

Yeah, the problem with these water buffers is you don't see them. The water plazas are really visible. We go there also with a lot of people to show it around with water buffers, it's not so much visible. It's but it's also not that expensive, which is a good thing. And you can do it all around the city. And for us the biggest opportunity to climate proof the city is to link in with maintenance in the city. And in Rotterdam, we are living below the level of the sea. But we are also sinking which is quite problematic. So we are seeing sinking two centimeters a year. 

Johan Verlinde  22:49

And, also our sewer system is sinking but not at the same velocity, which means that gradually one pipe move faster than the other, then you get leakage and we have to renew our sewer sewer system. So we have to renew forty kilometers every year, which means that we have to open up forty kilometer of roads every year. And now with every road we open, usually it will just open up the roads, renew the sewage pipe, put back the roads. But now we say okay, but do we need a road everywhere? Can we put back part of the road? There's actually one example where we totally gave up the roads and it was transformed to a park. Well, unfortunately, you can't do it everywhere because you need some roads for the cars. But for us this huge opportunity to transform forty kilometer of city every year into climate proof roads so to say.

Other benefits from water management

Abby Finis  23:45

We've mostly focused on water. But when you and I spoke, you talked more about the stacked I think you call it stacked approach to climate adaptation. What are some of the other benefits that come along with some of these projects?

Johan Verlinde  23:57

With our climate adaptation program, we not only look at water, but it's focusing on rain, heats, droughts, land subsidence, and flooding. So it's an integrated approach to all of these themes. So we looked at what's going on in our city. We have detailed maps about all the problems we face in our city in the next few years on these climate teams. And then we do projects based on what's happening. 

Johan Verlinde  24:22

And the good thing is it's not only about technical solutions, it's not only about pumping stations or pipes below the surface. It's about making the city more attractive. And we're not transforming big parts of our city into parks. And it's not only about storing their water, retaining the water, but also making sure that there's green which evaporates which goes down to city. Make sure there is enough shades where people can really cool down in times of heat waves. Yeah, heat waves. 

Johan Verlinde  24:54

It is a problem because this summer we had days of 14 degrees Celsius and we never experienced it decades ago. It's really something new. And almost no one in Rotterdam has air conditioning, we only have central heating. And we don't have enough locations in a public space where it's cool. So that's really what we're focusing on now also to make sure that we introduce cool places in the public space where people can cool down if it's not possible to cool down in your own home.

Larry Kraft  25:24

Like how biggest staff do you have? Is it that your prime job is to get staff from all these different departments when you do a project? How does that work?

Johan Verlinde  25:32

Yep. We are a program within the city, which means that we are working with staff from all different departments. I work together with people from the maintenance department, because maintenance is a huge opportunity for us to do something to the city. We work together with the urban planning departments. So make sure that everything that's being renovated in the city or built new into cities done in a climate proof way. But also with the Public Health Department, because climate change has a huge effects to the health of the citizens. Not so much flooding or rainfall, but heat is because in those heat waves, it's really problematic, especially for people who are already ill or the elderly. 

Johan Verlinde  26:18

So I have a staff of around forty people who work on climate adaptation on a daily basis. But a lot of people in the city are working with us. So it's really hard to say a number, but it's a lot of people. And it's really because of necessity, right? Because sometimes people say okay, why is Rotterdam working for climate adaptation on such a long time? Well, if we didn't, we wouldn't exist anymore. I'm confident of that. Right? So it's because of necessity.

Abby Finis  26:48

What is the population of Rotterdam?

Johan Verlinde  26:51

640,000 people.

Abby Finis  26:54

So it's roughly the size of Minneapolis and St. Paul together. When you told me forty staff directly working on climate, you have a budget of 45 million and like that's cut down from the 53 million you had before something that's just cool, we put maybe a million towards anything climate related.

Johan Verlinde  27:10

Yeah, and the 45 million is an extra to the yearly budget we already have on water management, because in the Netherlands, in general, there are designated taxes for water management. So you have like your general tax based on your income, and then you pay tax to the city for solid waste and for water management. And then we also have the water authorities, which is a separate governmental entity who will also have elections and you'll also pay taxes for that. And people are used to that. It's almost the only thing where your pay special taxes for. For your water safety and flooding. For Rotterdam, also a budget of around 70 million per year.

Community involvement

Larry Kraft  27:54

You talked about it before this shift with these water plazas from the city knows what's for the residents to the inviting the residents in to be part of the process. How do you get the community involved to support these efforts and take ownership? I imagine some of it is just people know, you kind of have to living in the Netherlands.

Johan Verlinde  28:16

Well, usually it's about their own streets or their own neighborhoods. And the dialogue doesn't start with climate change. It's about okay, what can you do to improve the livability in your neighborhoods? We are going to do something with your streets. And do you want to think with us. And then we start also about okay, but there are challenges with rainfall with heat. And to take all these negative effects we want more green industries, we want more trees, we want to do this and that and then people start to become interested in it. Start dialogues with us. And while usually we come up with nicer projects, because of what the people tell us. 

Johan Verlinde  28:59

Also one time, I have to tell you this, the water plaza Benthemplein. The idea was we're going to build it in the south of Rotterdam and we started dialogues with all the people living there with different groups of people. And then we had one day we had a meeting with the mothers of the kids living next to the water plaza and they said okay, so you're going to build water retention here which means that there's like a meter of water every once in a while. We are afraid that our kids will drown in there when we don't accept this idea we don't want this. And we said, okay. If the people living there don't like this idea we have to come up with something else. So on that location we build water retention below the surface not visible. 

Johan Verlinde  29:44

And then we said, Okay then let's go to another neighborhoods and then there the people really liked the idea. People really have a voice in the projects that are being built in their neighborhoods. It even goes a little bit further because we want more green in the city but we don't ask people to maintain the green in the city. So what you actually do is we also ask our citizens, do you want to take over the maintenance of this small part in your streets? And usually because they are already involved in the design of the intervention, that's it, okay, although we want to maintain it. And then you really create a sense of ownership of these projects. And we do it with a lot of locations now. First, it was a little bit difficult for the city to let go. And now we really see it as a benefit.

Larry Kraft  30:33

So Benthemplein, Abby is that the place you went to and took the pictures and posted on our social media? Is that the one?

Abby Finis  30:41

Yeah, it's one of the ones. I had been to Benthemplein earlier that morning, and it was dry, and there was not water in the reservoir. And so we went over to the sponge garden, which is not nearby, and then it was raining. So we got on some transit and headed back over and saw it in action and it's pretty cool.


Larry Kraft  31:00

Abby was kind of giddy about it actually. This has been so fascinating. What advice do you have for other cities? And I would say that are dealing with water issues or that are not.

Johan Verlinde  31:16

Yeah, the thing is, I speak with a lot of cities all around the world, because we don't invent everything ourselves, right, because the Netherlands are good in working with water, or building dikes, but other cities around the world are good with heat or are used to tackling the effects of heat. So I put a lot of effort also in sharing knowledge with cities all around the world. 

Johan Verlinde  31:39

But what I think is really important is first know what's happening. Make maps of your city, where you see what will happen with rainfall with heat also, in the next few years. Look at the scenarios from the IPCC. What's happening in our city? And maps are usually a good communication tool to show to everyone in your city, what's happening. Also to the politicians, which is quite important, because they make the decision about the budget. And without budget, you cannot do anything. 

Johan Verlinde  32:10

And also be transparent, the message is not always positive, right, or usually not. More rain is coming, the temperatures are rising, sea level is rising, but be transparent about it. Because everyone has to play a role in this. Not only local government, but also the private sector and the citizens. And start dialogues, as soon as possible. Not only be transparent, but play an active role in this. Reach out and talk with the citizens. And I think that's really important. So with one hand, start as soon as possible with projects within the city. But also, don't forget that communication is key in this to work in this together.

Larry Kraft  32:49

As you talked about connecting with other cities, and on heat, I thought about our Tempe episode, where they're dealing with, I was trying to do the conversion really quickly. With days that are over like 44 C a lot every year and starting to see some over 48 C which is 120. For us, in Fahrenheit world, you know, 100 degrees, this sort of this thing. And I remember talking to this person and thinking he was going to tell us about how many days over 100 he said, Oh my gosh, no, that's like a third of the year. 

Johan Verlinde  33:24


Larry Kraft  33:25

It's really interesting to have these discussions because I think the world benefits from all the knowledge that the Netherlands has on dealing with water.

Johan Verlinde  33:36

Yeah, but also the other way around. So recently, I visited Singapore, which is really an important partner for us because, well, it's always 32 degrees plus over there, it's really humid. But what they say is okay, part of our city is green, and stays green. So they are developing a lot. So more buildings more and more, but are built with green in mind. So you have totally green buildings. And that's it's a big inspiration for us. So open your eyes also to what's happening all around the world.

Larry Kraft  34:11

But thank you so much for your time.

Johan Verlinde  34:14

Thank you. It was a really nice discussion.

Abby Finis  34:16

Yeah, thank you.

Abby and Larry debrief

Larry Kraft  34:20

All right, Abby. What are your takeaways?

Abby Finis  34:23

I mean, I think that the whole concept of thinking about water as a friend and not an enemy I really like and I think that we can expand that to nature in general. How do we think about the benefits that nature provides? That water provides? And be able to leverage that for not just climate adaptation but more enjoyable, places to live. With the Dutch history around water for a long time their response was to harden everything and sometimes hardeningthings can create more issues when you're moving water away much faster. You can create flooding downstream. If you're not capturing that water and using it, as you know, they talked about intensive drought, okay, well, now we don't have water that we could have held on to for a bit. Embracing water, rainfall, and natural solutions in a way that is beneficial to your community so that you're not always relying on trying to defeat it. But thinking about how you can work with it is, I really like that concept.

Larry Kraft  35:29

Because I think we talked about I spent a lot of time the Netherlands and just loved the country in their approach. But I remember learning about ten years ago about this concept they had called making room for the water where they had previously straightened canals to get water away, their learning was that, especially with more rainfall, that was a big problem. And so when they were giving up some land and winding the canals and rivers more, to better capture it when they need it was a much better approach for them. 

Larry Kraft  36:01

Another concept that he said, which I think is fascinating is this concept of sometimes they have too much, and sometimes even the Netherlands, they don't have enough water. This thing of the foundations of these houses, because there's not enough water on them, they're drying out and rotting in a different way than they would normally is, it's gonna be a huge issue for them.

Abby Finis  36:22

Yeah, when cities are planned for one kind of climate normal, and now we're shifting into a totally different, you know, construction is going to have to shift and be flexible. And as listening to a professor here, who was just talking about, we have to prepare for both extremes at one time, right? How do you do that? How do you do that in your construction? How you do that in your infrastructure? And I think these examples are really good examples of a being able to do that. How do we accommodate heavy rainfall and use that rainfall to prepare us for drought? You know, how do we think about these solutions, not just as stormwater solutions, but also urban heat island solutions and carbon storage. The stacked benefits there that allow you to have that flexibility of being prepared for those extremes.

Larry Kraft  37:18

As I hear more about stuff going on there in the Netherlands, I'm so happy that they exist, because the things they are learning about how to manage water. He talked about these urban water buffers where you're capturing water, cleaning it with plants and pumping it down into the aquifer, so you can use it at a later time is so useful.

Abby Finis  37:39

Yeah. And you know, what stands out to me, and I think I said it is that when I was there, the rain garden at the soccer stadium, we had to search for it. It's really not that big of a space that is capturing a lot of water from their surrounding street and parking lot. It doesn't take that much effort with rain gardens and things to really divert a lot of water that otherwise could contribute to flooding. We mentioned Duck Hill in the intro. That too, I think about they had persistent flooding at this one intersection, right? And then they put in a rain garden and that's helped to alleviate that situation. So it just doesn't take a ton for a huge benefit to occur.

Larry Kraft  38:20

Yeah. The other thing that I thought was interesting is how they engaged citizens on coming up with some of these solutions, and that they had to shift from the city knows best to what's for citizens versus alright, let's work on this together. And it seems like that's been pretty fruitful.

Abby Finis  38:38

Yeah, I really liked that. And he said, they've had to work on letting go. Turning some of these projects over for maintenance to the residents there and that it's actually worked out really, really well. And people want to maintain little gardens, they want to contribute to these things and have these wild green spaces near their homes. The city can't do it on its own. Any city can't do it on its own. You have to bring in residents and it's just going to work a whole lot better.

Larry Kraft  39:07

Yeah. I love how they've come up with these dual use things. These water squares that also are performance areas or ice skating or that's just brilliant.

Abby Finis  39:18

Yeah, no it was cool to see the plaza, both in its dry state and in its functioning as a reservoir state.

Larry Kraft  39:26

Yes. And I have to say, I love that you've rushed back there and you and your brother were just filming these the water down into the water plaza.

Abby Finis  39:36

I will say while we were waiting for the tram, the stop was in the middle of a road going in either direction. And there's a whole group of us waiting for it and these cars are flying by and there was standing water there. So we did totally get splashed at the stop waiting for the tram. Was it worth it? Yeah, we dried off eventually.

Larry Kraft  39:57

We'll have to link to that video of you two.

Abby Finis  40:00

Yeah, that's pretty fun. 

Abby Finis  40:04

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  40:27

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our production assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by …

Abby Finis  40:36

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. 

Larry Kraft  40:38

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time!