nl en

In search of solutions for a global problem: Management of water resource


Enrolling in this course is possible until the 27th of January 2016, using the link at ‘registration’.


If you aim for a leading role somewhere in our world, whether in science, governance, private management or civil society, it is vital to understand the importance of water. Water brings hope and resources, but at the same times wreaks havoc and brings devastation.

This course enables and encourages you to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate about water resources and water management. Moreover you will be able to understand the leading role of the Netherlands and the Royal Couple in the approach of water management. This is an interdisciplinary honours class and we welcome students from a range of disciplines across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The class includes lectures, discussion, practical assignments, and field trips.


  1. 5 April (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00
    Course introduction: The Anthropocene – Climate and environmental change related to water resources and river management
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson

This session sets forth the conceptual framework by reviewing the challenges of managing flooding and river erosion in an era of global environmental change, and then reviews basic hydrologic and physical processes associated with large rivers. Climate change projections are reviewed from the standpoint of impacts to water and riverine resources. Further, the session concludes by reviewing how humans impacted rivers in the Anthropocene, over the past several hundred years.

  1. 12 April (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00
    Hydrologic and physical processes continued; River engineering (hard and soft styles); the EU approach to river basin management
    Featured basin: Rhine River, Germany and the Netherlands; the Lower Mississippi (Louisiana)
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson, guest lecturer (Utrecht Univ., NL)

This session builds upon the first week’s content by going further into depth about how different types of engineering features (dikes, dams, etc…) impact physical processes, especially sediment transport, river erosion, and flooding. While river engineering is considered necessary for humans to reside along large rivers, such engineering structures have frequently had a significant negative impact on river systems and are seen as working against environmental sustainability. The focus in this week is of rivers within the “developed world”, the mid-latitudes (temperate zone), especially Europe and North America. We compare and contrast traditional “hard” engineering styles common in North America with “integrated”(soft) approaches that have recently been adapted by the European Union. In this context the class will utilize the Rhine and Mississippi Rivers as case studies.

  1. 19 April (Tuesday): 12.00 – 18.00 (note earlier start and travel to Delft)
    The role of governmental organizations (local to international) in managing large river basins and shared water resources in the developing world
    Featured basin: Nile River, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia
    Lecturer/discussant: guest lecturer (UNESCO-IHE staff, NL)
    Half day excursion (field trip) to UNESCO-IHE (Delft)

In this session we consider the management of water resources and rivers in the developing world by taking a field trip to Delft. In Delft we will visit with researchers at the UNESCO-IHE (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the largest educational facility in the world dedicated to river and watershed management. As an international organization, UNESCO is an important player in the management of water resources and rivers in developing nations. Here we will be provided perspective on the varying roles of governmental organizations in facilitating the management of large tropical rivers, especially in Africa, with a focus on the Nile River.

  1. 26 April (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00
    Between the floods: Local management of floodplain soils, organic carbon, and agro-ecosystems along Earth’s largest river, the lower Amazon, Brazil
    Featured basin: Amazon River, Brazil
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson, guest lecturer (Johns Hopkins Univ., USA)

What is the role of small communities in managing water and other environmental resources along large river systems? In prior weeks we will have considered governmental frameworks at the international-scale, while in this session we zoom-in to the local-scale and consider the role of small communities in managing rivers and water resources. Although the Amazon River is by far the largest (and most important) river on Earth, small (local) communities are vital in the development and implementation of effective strategies to manage sustainability, specifically from the standpoint of soil, agriculture, and fresh water resources (floodplain lakes). Simply put, the lesson here is that without the cooperation of small communities, management along large rivers will not succeed.

  1. 3 May (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00
    Dams and Reservoirs: Downstream impacts to sediment and biodiversity
    Featured river basin: Mekong River, Vietnam
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson, guest lecturer (Exeter Univ., UK)

Perhaps no other type of management is as detrimental to riverine resources than dams and reservoirs. Large dams result in the fragmentation of river systems, trapping sediment upstream and starving the river of sediment downstream. Riverine ecosystems are compromised because aquatic organisms are unable to migrate, but also because of a change to the physical river and floodplain environment caused by declining sediment loads and altered hydrologic regimes (reduction in “flood pulses”). While the era of dam construction in North America and Europe is over, large main-stem dams continue to be constructed across Africa, South America, and Asia. In this session we utilize the Mekong River basin as a case study because of a series of large main-stem dams that have recently been constructed, and are planned for future construction. What kinds of lessons learned from North America and Europe can be applied to the development of modern main-stem dams along large rivers?

  1. 10 May (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00
    New directions in urban planning and the management of large deltas: The legacy and lessons of flooding from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans
    Featured river basin: Mississippi River, USA
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson, guest lecturer (DELTARES, NL)

Large deltas are inherently unstable settings because of being prone to river flooding, coastal flooding (storm surge), and land subsidence (sinking). In an era of global environmental change these factors further exacerbate human vulnerability to flooding. Paradoxically, many large and rapidly growing cities are located at the mouths of large river deltas. In this session we review the case of the Mississippi delta and the flooding of New Orleans caused by the combination of Hurricane Katrina and an inadequate flood control system. Such (natural?) disasters provide valuable lessons for planners and engineers, and over time can ultimately lead to more effective flood management and increase the safety of large populations.

  1. 17 May (Tuesday): 09.00 – 18.00 (note earlier start)
    Managing large river deltas in the Anthropocene: Field excursion: Rhine fluvial-deltaic processes and Delta Works project (all day trip)
    Field trip to Delta Works and Rijkswaterstaat
    Lecturer/discussant: Hudson, guest lecturer (Rijkswaterstaat, NL)
    Hydro lab due

For the final week we will utilize the Dutch Rhine as a “laboratory” to review state-of-the-art flood management in the context of sustainable urban development. The field trip will visit key points at the Delta Works project, an internationally acclaimed flood control system which helps to enable the Netherlands to sustain its prosperous economy and high quality of life. We will apply a critical lens to the Delta Works project from the standpoint of its impacts on the environment, and also its suitability to global climate change scenarios. Additionally, in this final session we will consider which elements of the Dutch flood control system could be employed in other settings, such as the lower Mississippi, as well as large rivers in the developing world.

  1. 24 May (Tuesday): 17.00 – 20.00


Tuesdays 5, 12, 26 April, 3, 10, 24 May; 17:00 – 20:00 hrs
19 April; 12:00 – 18:00 hrs (excursion)
17 May; 9:00 – 18:00 hrs (excursion)


De Oude Sterrewacht / Old Observatory, Sterrenwachtlaan 11, Leiden

Assessment method

Participation in discussion (10%), midterm exam (30%), hydro-lab (40%), presentation (20%)

Maximum number of students



Enrolling in this course is possible until 27 January via this link .


Dr. Paul F. Hudson