WaterTalks series: Pieter van der Zaag

Thursday, September 15, 2016 2:30 pm - 2:30 pm EDT

RBC visiting fellow, Pieter van der Zaag, presents “Water Storage: Nature-based Solutions for Resilient Communities."

A professor of integrated water resources management at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands and professor at Delft University of Technology, we welcome van der Zaag as part of our ongoing WaterTalks lecture series.

Speaker's presentation outline

  • In the semi-arid areas of the world water storage is critical for communities to deal with dry seasons and dry spells during the rainy seasons. In particular to agriculture-based communities water storage is critical, and will become more critical in future, as climate variability is likely to further increase.
  • There is currently a surge of dam building in particular in Asia and Africa, mainly for hydropower but also for irrigation and drinking water supply. However the negative social and environmental (and perhaps even geo-political) impacts of those dams are also escalating.
  • The presentation will try to address the following question: do alternative ways of increasing water storage capacity exist that minimise negative impacts?
  • After first discussing the issue of distributed versus centralised storage, I will present two types of nature-based storage development: 1) enhanced availability and use of groundwater through soil and water conservation measures and artificial recharge, and 2) enhanced storage capacity in dry river beds of seasonal (ephemeral) rivers, through so-called sand dams. These nature-based solutions provide communities with access to distributed water storage at relatively low financial and social and minimal environmental costs.
  • Both types of storage can be developed gradually and systematically. An approach that may be coined “adaptive investment pathways” is then proposed and briefly discussed.
  • By way of conclusion, development perspectives, and governance challenges are discussed.


View the official event page for Livestream detail.


WaterTalks is a lecture series, hosted by the Water Institute, that runs each year from September to March. Leading national and international researchers are selected to present, inspiring dialogue and broadening perspectives on current water issues. The 45-minute lectures, held at the University of Waterloo, are followed by 15-minute question and answer periods.