Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Striking Similarities, Distinct Differences, and Engaging Experiences

The past two days have proven to be quite an eye-opener for all who are interested in the management of water, either in the USA or in the Netherlands. Dr. Garth Redfield, Chief Scientist at the South Florida Water Management District, and Mr. Stan Bronson, Executive Director of the Florida Earth Foundation, have led us through lecture and travel to understand the complexity of water management in the Netherlands, including how it compares to that of the USA - specifically Florida. Living in the sunshine state my entire life, I have not been exposed to the process by which water is regulated within my home state. Receiving quite a wake up call these past two days, I have been excited to learn more about how this craft is accomplished amidst such difficult problems.

The first day's lectures at UNESCO-IHE focused on the fundamental responsibilities of the South Florida Water Management District. Following the discussion, we visited Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. This organization is made up of engineers, lawyers, and general administrators who have a voice in EU directives and are also charged with implementing these directives. Directives, as I understood them, are mandates made by the EU that must be adopted into each individual country as national law. In the process of learning how this organization works, we were able to absorb a general idea of how the EU works regarding its environmental directives, a very valuable lesson.

A channel outside Rijkswaterstaat (A final example of sound water management!)

Tuesday's lectures included progress and setbacks regarding restorations of the Kissimmee River, the Everglades, and Okeechobee Lake. I found these talks to be extremely interesting! It's surprising how the general public is not more aware of the problems that Florida faces! Following the lectures, we traveled to Deltares, an internationally known research facility specializing in flood research. This organization is contracted out by the Netherlands government, other EU governments, and private entities to research certain topics using computer modeling and/or physical modeling. Deltares' physical modeling facility is a massive roofed warehouse where working models are built, usually to a 1:40 scale. After the model is built, wave creation machines exert scaled conditions on the model. The maximum wave-height simulation would mimic a category 13 hurricane (on the current scale of 1-6).

Deltares Building

Deltares Physical Simulation Area

These two days have been very exciting and beneficial to our understanding of water management, both in the Netherlands and in the USA. We still have two days left of travel, and we are all excited for what is in store!

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