River Basin Development

The River Basin Development chair group investigates processes in the natural and built environment, which are determinant for the design and planning of sustainable water infrastructures prepared for global change.

Our research focuses on the balance of key elements of a river basin such as water and sediment, which implies the interaction of these with climate, geomorphology, the biosphere and human made constructions. The equilibrium (or availability); the excess and the scarcity of these natural elements are decisive for the safety of society, access to food, energy production and the environment. The River Basin Development chair group develops engineering and management solutions for a sustainable use of the natural resources available within and across river basins.


Water availability, excess and scarcity

Sustainable development and management of water resources in the river basins of the world is essential to healthy ecosystems and contributes to socio-economic development, risk mitigation and poverty reduction. The Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goal 6, underline the importance of dealing with increasing pressures on water resources. This calls for concerted effort to improve water security; providing safe access to water for food production, sanitation and health; at an acceptable level of risk in the face of natural hazards such as drought and floods.

Our research focusses on developing the scientific evidence base to underpin both river basin management planning and the operational management of water resources. Research topics include efficient and balanced allocation of surface and groundwater water resources to support key functions including hydropower and energy; irrigation; domestic and industrial water supply; the environment, and others. Linking scientific knowledge on hydrological and hydraulic processes, understanding feedback loops with society, and the value of information in developing integrated and transparent river basin management planning; as well as flood and drought management planning are key concepts in our work.

River engineering and morphodynamics

Sustainable river engineering can be achieved only by taking into account the river response to interventions on the short and long time. All changes made on water flow and river morphology trigger processes of sediment erosion and deposition in the river channel resulting in river bed and bank alignment adaptation. This inevitably involves also the upstream and downstream river reaches. Alterations of the river morphology manifest rather slowly and are often not taken into account in river engineering projects. However, they may negatively impact river services, such as the draining of flood waters, navigation, infrastructure, etc. The field of study quantifying these processes is called “river morphodynamics”. Riverbed shape, slope and bank alignment become variables and the river is treated as a fully-dynamic system. This allows predicting scours, bars, bank erosion, channel incision and many other phenomena and finding ways to mitigate them.

Hydraulic infrastructures and hydropower potential

Hydraulic structures have as main function to store and/or divert water and they are often vital for national and regional development. Design, operation and maintenance of dams and weirs, among other structures, is a challenging and complex topic integrating diverse specializations such as hydrology, hydraulics, geotechnics and structural engineering, but also environmental and social sciences. Dams are one of the safest man-made structures. Their safety is the result of continuous improvement and investigation on modeling and design techniques, as well as the continuous knowledge upgrading on risk and on accident consequences.

Hydropower is among the oldest renewable energy sources and by far the most important source of green energy in the world. Hydropower relies on water passing through turbines to generate electricity, while also serving as a major source of global energy storage. The challenges of hydropower are not limited only to technical issues, including also legislation, economic and environmental issues. In river basins across the world, hydropower development and management have potential impacts – positive and negative – on another water resources, biosphere and geomorphology.

MSc programme

Click here for more information on IHE Delft Master of Science in Hydraulic Engineering and River Basin Development.

Short courses

The River Basin Development chair group offers the following short courses to water professionals, engineers and managers to deepen their knowledge in crucial water related issues, such as:

Staff members

PhD fellows