Chris Zevenbergen Prof., PhD, MSc

Professor of Flood Resilience of Urban Systems


Chris Zevenbergen is (full-time) professor at the Water Engineering Department of IHE Delft and at TU Delft, The Netherlands and visiting professor at the Southeast University (SEU), China. Chris Zevenbergen leads the Flood Resilience Chair Group at IHE Delft. He is also Project Director of DeltaCap, a capacity development program to support the implementation of the Delta Plan in Bangladesh.  From 1999 to 2012 he was director Business Development of Dura Vermeer, one of the largest contractors in The Netherlands. He was also a Member of the Board of the Public Private Innovation Platform Clean Tech Delta (CTD), The Netherlands, from 2012 to 2014.

He worked as a researcher on various environmental issues related to the building industry, such as environmental impact assessments, product development, emission modeling, testing procedures, building codes and guidelines in the 1980s followed by 20 years international research and consultancy in environmental engineering and water management of urban systems. In the past 20 years he has accumulated extensive national and international experience with integrated approaches to manage floods in the urban environment.

His research interest and teaching are specifically on innovative concepts to mitigate urban flood risks, on flood proofing building designs and technologies and on decision support tool development in urban planning with practical application in urban flood management. He has a strong affinity with the ecological, socio-economic, institutional aspects of urban planning and water management. Therefore, he considers himself more a generalist than a specialist. He has provided specialist training in urban flood risk management and resilience for both public and private institutions in The Netherlands as well as abroad. He has published/edited five books and more than 100 scientific publications in the field of environmental engineering and urban flood management. He was co-founder and chairman of the European Network COST C22 on Urban Flood Management. He has participated in various national and international advisory boards of governmental and scientific institutions (such as IPCC EM Infra, Rotterdam Climate Proof, Environmental Science Group Wageningen, iBuild, DLR Future Mega Cities, EPSRC, the Dutch Knowledge for Climate Program).

Chris Zevenbergen is also involved in a new interdisciplinary research area at IHE Delft, Urban Water Accounting. Read more here.

Recent and ongoing research projects

  • MARE stands for Managing Adaptive REsponses to changing flood risk in the North Sea region. The overarching aim of the project is to enable widespread implementation of local adaptive measures to reduce and adapt to flood risk. Therefore the project sets out to develop and demonstrate a transnational approach to local Flood Risk Management (FRM) through the following parallel areas of activity: setting up Learning and Action Alliances, development of a Climate Proofing Toolbox, and demonstration (Bergen, Dordrecht, Hannover, and Sheffield/Rotherham). Along similar lines, MARE Asia has been recently initiated together with the ADB to establish a network of LAAs in medium size cities in Asia (Indonesia and Vietnam) and the EU (Dordrecht and Rotterdam). Objectives are to develop a framework for integrating flood risk reduction into a broader public sector and market driven investment strategy, also addressing how the different measures can be effectively matched to the most suitable finance.
  • FloodProBE is an EU FP7 project with the objective of providing cost-effective solutions for flood risk reduction in urban areas. FloodProBE aims to develop technologies, methods and tools for flood risk assessment and for the practical adaptation of new and existing buildings, infrastructure and flood defences leading to a better understanding of vulnerability, flood resilience and defence performance. This research supports implementation of the Floods Directive through the development of more effective flood risk management strategies. The work is being undertaken in close partnership with industry, and is utilising pilot sites across Europe, to help provide practical industry guidance and cost effective construction solutions. FRG has developed in FloodProBE a pragmatic and rapid screening procedure to assess quick-wins to protect critical urban infrastructure from floods The purpose of the Quick Scan is to provide guidance for network operators and decision makers on identifying and rating those critical infrastructure networks and hot spot buildings that may be at risk from flooding and assessing where intervention will be most feasible and cost beneficial – the so-called “low hanging fruits” or “quick wins”. This approach will help to support the development  of effective interventions to alleviate direct and indirect flood impacts. Workshops and interviews with stakeholders and experts have been organised in the pilot cities Bangkok, Paris, and Dordrecht to test and further optimize the Quick Scan and to obtain feedback and lessons learned for the protection of critical urban infrastructure.
  • Collaborative Research on Flood Resilience in Urban areas (CORFU) is an interdisciplinary EU FP7-project that will look at advanced and novel strategies and provide adequate measures for improved flood management in cities. Adopting a long-term perspective, the project will not only focus on the possible effects of climate change, but also incorporate anthropogenic factors. By coupling a socio-economic model with a physical urban growth model, urban development is taken into account as a dynamic factor in the sensitivity, exposure and vulnerability to flooding. Another important factor is the incorporation of growing Asian megacities (Beijing, Mumbai, Dhaka) as well as relatively stable European cities (Hamburg, Nice, Barcelona). This should ultimately lead to different responses (e.g. smart growth policies vs flood-sensitive redevelopment). FRG focuses on the development of the urban growth and redevelopment model which provides the platform for hydraulic modelling, flood vulnerability analysis and the response framework.
  • Climate Proofing Cities, a Knowledge For Climate funded project which focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the sensitivity of Dutch urban areas to climate impacts. This project is an extension of the preliminary study ‘Climate Proofing the Netherlands’ and should ultimately lead to a quantification of impacts related to flooding (pluvial), drought and heat stress. FRG will mainly focus on developing direct and indirect damage models for pluvial flooding on urban areas including infrastructure and on developing a practical guidance on mainstream adaptation for city planners and water engineers.
  • Scientific Evaluation of the Room for the River programme; In the Netherlands, Room for the River takes up a key role for advancing both components of the transition towards more holistic and sustainable water management. Room for the River is an example for future large scale water management infrastructure projects like the Delta Programme that have to deal with complex interacting domains. Furthermore, its programme organisation that embraces governance of networks, whilst respecting representative democracy in delivery may provide a leading example for how the Dutch government can organise the delivery of public works in the future. The relevance of the Room for the River programme stretches beyond our national borders, because similar transitions to more holistic and sustainable water management are taking place in other places in Europe and beyond. The lessons from this evaluation are deemed to be useful for the further development and implementation of the Room for the River Programme and the design and management of future (national) policy investment programmes in flood management, spatial planning and infrastructure planning; in the Netherlands, such as for the Delta Programme, and also in applications in other countries.
  • NWO WOTRO Integrated Project 'Flood Resilience in the Bangladeshi and Dutch Deltas' will assess and compare the strategies and policies of governments, professionals and communities to reduce flood risk and vulnerability in the Bangladeshi and Dutch Deltas, to contribute to poverty reduction through the strengthening of institutional and community capacities to manage moderate floods and increase resilience to extreme floods. The research will examine how different communities develop, adopt, implement and modify flood risk management policies in the two deltas, and will enhance mutual learning between Bangladesh and the Netherlands. This will yield new frameworks and tools that will give insights into levels of vulnerability and resilience to flooding and how to reduce flood risk-exposure. FRG will conduct PhD research on the potential and applicability of the multi-layer safety approach and adaptive delta management to reduce flood risk in Dhaka (Bangladesh) over the medium to long term, and to compare the findings (lessons learned) with those from the pilot study Dordrecht of the Dutch Delta Programme.
  • CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) brings together the inter-disciplinary research expertise and thought-leadership of Australia, Singapore, Denmark and the Netherlands to address the challenges in urban water management now facing Australia’s towns and cities. The objective of FRG-led PhD research is to improve adaptation-related decision making to focus expenditure for greatest return on investment and at the same time deliver robust infrastructure for and a resilient community to flooding (and other risks). This will further develop existing Dutch and European approaches for resilient adaptation within an Australian context.


Recent publications (2013-present)

Peer reviewed journals

Gersonius, B., R Ashley, A. Pathirana, C. Zevenbergen (2013) Climate change uncertainty: building flexibility into water and flood risk infrastructure. Climatic Change 116 (2), 411-423 3

Zevenbergen, C., Rijke, J., van Herk, S., Ludy, J. Ashley, R.A. (2013) Room for the River: International Relevance. Water Governance, Special Issue 3, The governance of creating more room for the river: Best practices, No. 2, May 2013

Rijke, J., Farrelly, M., Brown, R., Zevenbergen, C. (2013) Configuring transformative governance to enhance resilient urban water systems. Environmental Science and Policy, Volume 25, January 2013, Pages 62–72

Assela Pathirana, Hailu B Denekew, William Veerbeek, Chris Zevenbergen, Allan T Banda (2013). Impact of urban growth-driven landuse change on microclimate and extreme precipitation–a sensitivity study 2013/10/23, Atmospheric Research

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R., Jeuken, A., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2013) Accounting for uncertainty and flexibility in flood risk management: comparing Real In Options and Adaptation Tipping Points. Journal of Flood Risk Management.

Van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., (2013) Understanding the transition to integrated flood risk management in the Netherlands. Journal of Environmental Innovations and Societal Transitions (EIST). doi: 10.1016/j.eist.2013.11.001.

Van Herk, S., C Zevenbergen, B Gersonius, H Waals,  E Kelder (2014) Process design and management for integrated flood risk management: exploring the Multi Layer Safety approach for Dordrecht, the Netherlands. Journal of Water and Climate Change | 05.1 | 2014

Rijke, J., van Herk, S., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., Hertogh, M., ten Heuvelhof, E. (2014) Programme success through aligning project and programme management. International Journal of Project Management.

Salinas Rodriguez, C., Ashley, R., Gersonius, B., Rijke, J., Pathirana, A., Zevenbergen, C. (2014) Incorporation and application of flood resilience in the context of water sensitive cities. WIREs Water, 1:173–186. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1017

Van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R. (2014) Transition of River Basin Management in the Netherlands through instrumental social learning in multi-level governance arrangements. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions Journal.

Rijke, J., Vessels Smith, J., Gersonius, B., Van Herk, S., Pathirana, A., Ashley, R., Wong, T., Zevenbergen, C. (2014) Operationalising resilience to drought: multi-layered safety for flooding applied to droughts. Journal of Hydrology. 11/2014; 519:2652-2659. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.09.031

van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R. (2014) Transition of River Basin Management in the Netherlands through instrumental social learning in multi-level governance arrangements. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions Journal.

van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., ten Heuvelhof, E. (2014) Attributes for integrated Flood Risk Management projects; case study Room for the River. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., Besseling, B. (2014) Adaptive co-management and network learning in the Room for the River programme. Journal of Environmental Planning & Management. doi: 10.1080/09640568.2013.873364

Pathirana, A., Denekew, H. B., Veerbeek, W., Zevenbergen, C., & Banda, A. T. (2014). Impact of urban growth-driven landuse change on microclimate and extreme precipitation—A sensitivity study. Atmospheric Research, 138, 59-72.

Gersonius, B., Rijke, J., Ashley, R., Bloemen, P., Kelder, E. & Zevenbergen, C. (2015) Adaptive Delta Management for flood risk and resilience in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Natural Hazards, 1-16.

Olthuis, K., Benni, J.,Eichwede, K., Zevenbergen, C. (2015) Slum Upgrading: assessing the importance of location and a plea for a spatial approach. Habitat International 09/2015; 50:270-288. DOI:10.1016/j.habitatint.2015.08.033

Tembo, L. Pathirana, A., van der Steen, P., Zevenbergen, C. (2015) Flexible engineering designs for urban water management in Lusaka, Zambia. Water Science and Technology 72 (10), 1675-1681, 2015

Veerbeek, W., Pathirana, A., Ashley, R., & Zevenbergen, C. (2015). Enhancing the calibration of an urban growth model using a memetic algorithm. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 50, 53-65.

Zevenbergen, C., Rijke, J., van Herk, S., Bloemen, P. (2015) Room for the River: a stepping stone in adaptive delta management. International Journal of Water Governance 3, 121–140

Zevenbergen, C., van Herk, S., Escarameia, M., Gersonius, B., Serre, D., Walliman, N., de Bruijn, K.M. and de Graaf, R. (2015) Assessing quick wins to protect critical urban infrastructure from floods: a case study in Bangkok, Thailand, Journal of Flood Risk Management, 18 Jun 2015, DOI: 10.1111/jfr3.12173

Escarameia, M., Walliman, N.,  Zevenbergen, C., and de Graaf, R. (2015). Methods of assessing flood resilience of critical buildings. ICE Water Management., Paper 1400066

Ping, Neoh Siew, U. Wehn, C. Zevenbergen, P. van der Zaag, (2016). Towards two-way flood risk communication: current practice in a community in the UK. Journal of Water and Climate Change 7(4), 651-664 [doi:10.2166/wcc.2016.015]

Anvarifar F., Zevenbergen C., Thissen W., Islam T. (2107) Understanding Flexibility for Multifunctional Flood Defences: A Conceptual Framework, Journal of Water & Climate Change, Reliability Engineering & System Safety. 158, p. 130-141

Zevenbergen, C., S. van Herk, en J. Rijke. (2016). Future proofing flood risk management: Setting the stage for an integrative, synergistic and adaptive approach. Public Works Management & Policy, Volume 22, pp 49-54; doi:10.1177/1087724X16674473

Zevenbergen, C., Bhattacharya, B., Wahaab, R. Elbarki, W., Busker, T., Rodriguez, C.S. (2017). In the aftermath of the October 2015 Alexandria Flood: Challenges of an Arab city to deal with extreme rainfall storms. Natural Hazards, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 901–917.

Conference papers

Veerbeek, W. and Zevenbergen, C. (2013) Developing business-as-usual scenarios for the urban growth of 4 Asian megacities, International Conference on Flood Resilience, Experiences in Asia and Europe, 5-7 September, Exeter, UK,

Anvarifar, F., Zevenbergen, C. (2013) An introductory of integrating spatial planning into flood risk management under uncertainty. Int. Conf on Flood Resilience (ICFR): Experiences in Asia and Europe, 5-7 September 2013, Exeter, UK.

Zevenbergen, C.,  Kolaka, K., van Herk, S., Escarameia, M., Gersonius, B., Serre, D., Wallimam, N., de Bruijn, L.M.,  de Graaf, R.  (2013) Assessing quick-wins to protect critical urban infrastructure from floods. Case study (three urban communities) Bangkok, Thailand. Int. Conf on Flood Resilience (ICFR): Experiences in Asia and Europe, 5-7 September 2013, Exeter, UK.

van Herk, S. Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., Besseling, B. (2013) Adaptive multi-level governance through social learning: River Basin Management in the Netherlands. Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference, 28-31 January 2013, Tokyo, Japan.

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R, Rijke, J., Rodriguez, C., Wong, T., Zevenbergen, C. (2014) An interpretation of 'water sensitivity' and 'resilience' that advances application with respect flood and drought risk management. 6th International Conference on Flood Management, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 16-18 September 2014.

Salingay, M.L.B., van der Steen, P., Pathirana, A., Rijke, J., Quan, N.H., Zevenbergen, C., Vinh, K.Q. (2014) Flood-related Water Quality Assessment and Management in  Can-Tho City, Vietnam. 13th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Sarawak, Malaysia, 7-12 September 2014.

Rijke, J., Hertogh, M., Zevenbergen, C., (2014) A comparison of financial arrangements for realising adaptation projects. 2nd International Conference on Deltas in times of Climate Change, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 24-26 September 2014. 

Rijke, J., Salinas Rodriguez, C., Gersonius, B., Zevenbergen, C. (2014) Emergence and application of adaptive delta management in the Netherlands. 2nd International Conference on Deltas in times of Climate Change, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 24-26 September 2014. 

van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Zevenbergen, C. (2014) From policy concepts to delivery of integrated flood risk management. 2nd International Conference on Deltas in times of Climate Change, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 24-26 September 2014.

Assela Pathirana, Ho Long Phi, Nguyen Hong Quan, Chau Nguyen Xuan Quang, Berry Gersonius, Ky Quang Vinh, Chris Zevenbergen. (2014) Urbanizing areas in the Mekong delta and climate change adaptation – the PRoACC2U approach. 13th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Sarawak, Malaysia, 7-12 September 2014 

Gersonius, B., Kelder, E.T.G., Anema, K., Van Herk, S. and Zevenbergen, C. (2014) Adaptation measures and pathways for flood risk in Dordrecht. 6th International conference on flood management, September 2014, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Veerbeek, W., Gersonius, B., Chen, A. S., Hammond, M. J., Khan, D. M., Radhakrishnan, M., & Zevenbergen, C. (2014) Applied Flood Resiliency: A Method for Determining the Recovery Capacity for Fast Growing Mega Cities. 13th International Conference on Urban Drainage, 7-12 September 2014, Kuchin, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Dikman Maheng, M.,  Zevenbergen, C., Putra, A., Ndibale, W. (2015) A Household Sanitation Technology for Amphibious Housing. In: International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering (ICAADE2015), Bangkok, August 26-29.

Zevenbergen, C, (2015) Amphibious Architecture and Design in the Netherlands. In: International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering (ICAADE2015), Bangkok, August 26-29.

Zevenbergen, C., van de Guchte, C., Pathirana, A. (2015) Water and Delta-Cities: Accelerating Urban Resilience In: 2015 International Conference on Earth Observation & Societal Impacts and ICLEI Resilience Forum, June 28-30, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, ROC

Veerbeek, W., Bouwman, A. and Zevenbergen, C. (2016) The contribution of future growth to flood risk in megacities. Canada, Camuss 2016.

Zevenbergen, C., Rijke, J., and van Herk, S. (2016) Towards an adaptive flood risk management strategy in The Netherlands: an overview of recent history. 1990-1996 pp. River Flows 2016 – Constantinescu. Garcia & Hanes (Eds), Tailor & Francis Group, ISBN 978-1-138-02913-2

Book chapters

Zevenbergen, C, Flood Resilience (2016) This paper is part of the IRGC Resource Guide on Resilience, available at: governance/resilience/. Lausanne: EPFL International Risk Governance Center. v29-07-2016

Other information

PhD fellows

  • F. Ahmed: Application of resilience to flood risk management in Dhaka
  • K. Anema: Mitigating urban flood risk with public policy and community resilience
  • F. Anvarifar: Real options in design of Multi-functional Flood Defense Systems (with prof W. Thissen, TuDelft)
  • T.Bacchin: Water sensitive urban environments: urban landscape system design in fast-changing conditions, the Brazilian case (with prof D. Sijmons, TuDelft)
  • S.van Herk: Delivering integrated flood risk management: governance arrangements for collaboratiom, adaptation and learning (with prof R. Ashley)
  • N. Manojlovic: Theory and Technology to Improve Stakeholder Participation on the Road to Flood Resilient Cities (with prof P Frohle, TUHH)
  • K. Olthuis: App-grading wet slums
  • J. Rijke: Delevering change: Towards fit-for-purpose governance adaptation (with prof R. Brown, Monash University)
  • M. da Silva Duarte Duque: water sensitive urban spatial planning in tropical costal and estuarine cities (with prof D. Roelvink)
  • W. Veerbeek: Effects of Current and Future Urban Growth on Surface Runoff in Large Metropolitan Areas