Nature Based Solutions (NbS) is an emerging concept that covers a range of approaches and technologies that use natural processes to address societal challenges. Nature Based Solutions for Water Management was one of the 10 summer courses IHE Delft organized for their student community, and interested people from outside.
Learning by design
The Nature Based Solutions concept is particularly relevant in applications in the field of water management, such as in coastal/river flood protection, water resources management, stormwater management, water supply, wastewater treatment and pollution prevention. Nature Based Solutions, when well designed, will result in multiple benefits for the environment, society and economy. They can also promote a green and circular economy, because they close the loop of water management and make connections between healthy ecosystems and social/economic development challenges.
The 5-day summer course introduced participants to basic design and operation principles of NbS. The lecturers explained how to apply these principles to various fields of water management. In parallel, the participants worked in teams on an application in a concrete context. In this “learning by design” exercise, participants were challenged to apply the NbS principles by designing their own poster.
Experiences from course participants
The course concluded with participants presenting their posters in groups in which they had implemented the various principles and designs of nature based solutions they had learned over the week. A focus group discussion was held to get an overview of the participants’ experiences of the course.
“My expectation was to learn about new innovative options to incorporate and use nature as a solution to flooding. After this course, I feel inspired to implement and advocate the measures learned. In particular, I would like to further explore stormwater recycling for essential water uses", explained Adele Jong, MSc student in Hydraulic Engineering & River Basin Development.
Edmond Mutugi Mugambi, MSc student in Urban Water and Sanitation added: “It was a nice experience. I learnt some new issues especially with regard to coastal engineering. Some topics were already familiar to me, as I have a scientific background. Some issues became clearer, especially with regard to ecosystem services, which I got to understand better. And I think NbS is the way forward to go.”
Course significance to the Building with Nature project
The Building with Nature project (BwN) is a part of the Interreg North Sea Region Programme 2014 - 2020. The project aims to bring together partners and experiences about nature-based solutions (NBS) that utilize natural processes to deliver flood risk and coastal erosion management whilst enhancing ecosystem services. IHE Delft is responsible for leading the “Upscaling: Practice, Policy and Capacity Building” activity. This part of the project is oriented to support practitioners and policy makers through an evidence base that will help to define, design, calculate benefits and effectiveness of BwN measures.
How to build a communication bridge between experts and learners, is a critical issue for this project. Through the Nature based Solutions summer course, this challenge could be practiced and participants' feedback provided valuable input. In addition, feedback from the summer course can help the BwN project to develop a stronger link between knowledge supply and demand.