River Rhine Case Study Essay

Where it is located

The River Rhine is located in Europe. It flows through countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany. Its source is in the Swiss Alps and its mouth is at the North Sea. The River Rhine is 1320km long and the Rhine basin covers 9 countries.

Reasons it flooded

The River Rhine flooded because large areas of it have been urbanized which speeded up the run-off. The water couldn’t drain through surfaces such as concrete. There was low vegetation which reduced the evapotranspiration which meant that there would be less water intercepted so the area would be less able to cope with the floods and there would be a high surface run-off. There had been heavy rainfall almost non-stop for 2 days so the ground had become saturated. There had been high temperatures in the mountains which had melted the snow so a massive amount of water had been released. There had been increasing rainfall over the past century due to global warming. In Holland a lot of the land is below sea level so this had increased the risk of flooding and made flooding problems worse.

People had tried to straighten the River Rhine to improve the navigation and speed up the river flow. This unfortunately meant that the River Rhine couldn’t hold as much water as before which increased the risk of flooding and it had also made the Rhine faster which had increased the risk of flash floods. Also a flood surge normally takes 5 days to reach downstream but because of the increased river flow it only took 2. The River Rhine’s floodplain had been narrowed and the river bed had been lowered by the erosion. Dams had been built upstream which had trapped sediment and increased the river flow downstream.

Effects of the flooding

250,000 people had to be evacuated since the dykes were close to collapsing. Some people were killed by the flood. The Dutch government had to pay billions of euros in compensation to the people affected by the floods. This put a huge strain on the economy. The City Centre of Cologne (Germany) was flooded severely. 1550km� of farmland was flooded and animals such as cattle caught diseases which made life hard for the farmers and the cattle’s milk production was reduced for months after the flooding.

There was a lot of looting. The water supplies became polluted and diseases spread quickly. Since things such as waste products had previously been dumped in the river when it flooded there was toxic mud deposited on the floodplain making some land unusable which also affected the farmers. The flood damaged many of the local buildings. The eco-systems near the River Rhine had been affected.

Flood Management

In Cologne sandbags were used to try and hold of the flooding so that the people had more time evacuate. The sandbags were placed there by the army and volunteers. The Dutch had used dykes to prevent flooding for centuries however the dykes had showed signs of crumbling when the flooding had happened so the people in the risk area had to evacuate. Levees had been used as well to prevent the flooding. Pumps had been used to try and prevent water-logging.

Flood Prevention

There are a number of ways to prevent flooding next time. Land can be zoned for uses such as nature reserves which have been made near the River Rhine to decrease surface run-off and increase evapotranspiration however people such as farmers had to sell their land. People could use flood-proofing such as having a house design which raises the floor level. They could use tiled floors to minimize damage and also have light furniture which they can move to a higher floor when flooding occurs to prevent damage.

Dams and reservoirs can be built upstream to have a more controlled water-flow. The height of the levees could be increased however the problem would be worsened if the levee collapses. Embankments can be built so the water runs up the side of the bank instead of over-flowing. Afforestation can be used to increase evapotranspiration so there water is delayed reaching the river and less water will reach the river. Deep trenches can be constructed so more water is stored. Diversionary Channels can be made in addition to that demountable flood barriers can be built.


There are a lot of techniques that can be used to prevent flooding. I believe that Afforestation would be highly successful to combat flooding since it is cheap, very effective and would improve the environment overall.


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