Living with Water
Living with water is the approach driving the Resilient Hampton Initiative, and one of City Council’s strategic priorities. Rather than fighting water, we aim to create a safe, sustainable future alongside our water resources that maximizes their benefits. By "living with water" we strive to integrate flood risk mitigation, engineering, spatial planning, urban design, environmental goals, community amenities, and economic development. Instead of figuring out how to "engineer" water away, we allow the water to be an integral part of our community.
Learning from the Dutch
As concerns about recurrent flooding and sea level rise continue to grow, cities are seeking innovative solutions to protect their citizens and infrastructure. Since 2015, Hampton has looked to guidance from those who have dealt with coastal flooding for centuries: the Dutch.
The Netherlands is a low-lying country whose economy and identity is directly related to the water. One-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and another third is at sea level and subject to twice daily tidal flooding. The Netherlands is famous for its flood protection systems, which until recently were designed "to keep the water out." In the 1990s, the Dutch began to recognize the unintended impacts of hard infrastructure approaches on their environments and cities. Additionally, they began to assess the effects of changing climate, sea level rise, subsidence, increased winter and spring river flows, summer drought, groundwater depletion, and salt water intrusion.
A new water management paradigm has taken hold in the Netherlands, often described as "from resistance to accommodation," or “from fighting the water at all costs" to "living with water where possible."
In June 2015, Hampton engaged in the Dutch Dialogues Virginia, a five-day workshop that brought together urban water management experts from New Orleans, the Netherlands and Hampton Roads to discuss ideas and solutions for the future.
After that meeting, the city managers of Hampton and Norfolk pledged to be leaders in coastal resiliency. Since then, Hampton has engaged Waggonner & Ball Architecture/Environment, a New Orleans-based firm that participated in the Dutch Dialogues workshop, to help gather data and develop Resilient Hampton’s work based on the Dutch approach to life at sea level.
Since 2015, Hampton's efforts have evolved and expanded into the Resilient Hampton Initiative. The Dutch Dialogues event was a great catalyst for the work Hampton needs to do to be the place where residents and businesses can safely grow and thrive.