The Dutch government has built a “sand motor” —
hundreds of millions of cubic feet of dredged sand that will
protect the Netherlands’ southern coast from sea level rise and
Over the next 20 years, waves will push the sand
into protective barriers along the coast.
A significant portion of the Netherlands sits below sea
level, a reality that has prompted the country to seriously
address the looming consequences of climate
If the world continues on current path of high greenhouse gas
emissions, scientists predict
that oceans could rise more than six feet by the end of this
century. Sea level rise is already eroding coastlines and
flooding cities and towns — from
Miami, Florida to
Sussex, England — during storms.
Cities in the Netherlands have long served as examples of how to
grapple with these threats. For years, sand dunes and sea walls
have protected the country’s coasts.
But now, environmental engineers and scientists say these
strategies are not enough. The Dutch government is turning to
“sand motors” —
dredged sand that simulates the natural formation of dunes.
The country devoted $81 million toward its first sand motor along
the southwestern coast in 2011. Over the next 20
years, waves will push the sand into protective barriers
along at least six miles of the southern coast. The project
used 756 million cubic feet of sand from the North Sea,
creating over 10,000 acres of land.
The photo below shows the motor’s progress so far:
As Yale Environment 360
notes, the idea came from Marcel Stive, chair of
coastal engineering at Delft University of Technology in the
Netherlands. The goal is to expand the country’s coasts, making
them safer from erosion and rising sea levels.
Around 21% of the country’s population resides below sea
level, putting them at risk.
Stive’s team will monitor the sand motor to determine if
other areas in the Netherlands (and elsewhere) should implement
“Besides coastal protection, the knowledge we will gain here is
very important. With all this data, we will try to gain more
knowledge around this pilot. And we would like to export our
knowledge to other countries,” project manager Carola van
Gelder-Maas said in