Chris Zevenbergen Prof., PhD, MSc

Professor of Flood Resilience of Urban Systems


Chris Zevenbergen is professor at the Water Engineering Department of UNESCO-IHE and at TU Delft, The Netherlands. He chairs the Flood Resilience Chair Group of UNESCO-IHE. He is also strategic advisor of the Executive Board of the Dura Vermeer Group NV and Member of the Board of the Public Private Innovation Platform Clean Tech Delta (CTD), The Netherlands. 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 15 years he has accumulated extensive national and international experience with integrated approaches to manage floods in urban environments.

His research interest is specifically on innovative concepts to mitigate urban flood impacts, 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 published/edited five books 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 participates in various national and international advisory boards of governmental and scientific institutions (e.g. IPCC EM Infra, Rotterdam Climate Proof, Environmental Science Group Wageningen, DLR Future Mega Cities, EPSRC, iBuild, the Dutch Knowledge for Climate Program). He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Flood Risk Management (JFRM) and the Journal of Water Conservancy and Hydroelectric Engineering (JWCHE).

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 journal papers

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

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Adaptation of flood risk infrastructure for climate resilience. Proceedings of the ICE - Civil Engineering. 165, 6, 40 –45

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Climate change uncertainty: building flexibility into water and flood risk infrastructure. Climatic Change. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0494-5

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) The identity approach for assessing socio-technical resilience to climate change: example of flood risk management for the Island of Dordrecht. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. 12, 2139-2146.

Gersonius, B., Nasruddin, F., Ashley, R., Jeuken, A., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Developing the evidence base for mainstreaming adaptation of stormwater systems to climate change. Water Research.

Zevenbergen, C., Van Herk, S., Rijke, J., Kabat, P., Bloemen, P., Ashley, R., Speers, A., Gersonius, B. and Veerbeek, W. (2012) Taming global flood disasters. Lessons learned from Dutch experience. Natural Hazards. DOI 10.1007/s11069-012-0439-3

Rijke. J., Brown, R., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., Farrelly, M., Morison, P. and van Herk, S. (2012) Fit-for-purpose governance: a framework to make adaptive governance operational. Environmental Science & Policy, 22: 73-84.

Van Herk, S., Zevenbergen, C., Rijke, J., Ashley, R., (2011) Learning and Action Alliances for the integration of flood risk management into urban planning: a new framework from empirical evidence from The Netherlands. Environ. Sci. Policy, 14, 543-554

Van Herk, S., Zevenbergen, C., Rijke, J., Ashley, R. (2011). Collaborative research to support transition towards integrating flood risk management in urban development, Journal of Flood Risk Management, DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-318X.2011.01113.x

Van Ree, C. C. D. F., Heilemann, K., Morris, M. W., Royet, P. and Zevenbergen, C. (2011) FLOODPROBE: Technologies for improved safety of the built environment in relation to flood events. Environment Science & Policy,  1462-9011, 14(7), pp 874-883.

Ven, F.H.M. van de, Gersonius, B., Graaf de R., Luijendijk, U., and  Zevenbergen, C. (2011) Towards water robust urban environments: Linking planning, design, building process and exploitation using a three step approach, Journal Flood risk Management Volume 4, Number 4, 1 December 2011 , pp. 273-280(8).

Gersonius, B. MSc., Ashley, R. BSc, MPhil, C Eng, MICE, C Env, MCIWEM., Pathirana, A. PhD and Zevenbergen C. PhD. (2010): Managing the flooding system's resiliency to climate change. Journal of Engineering Sustainability. Special issue Climate Change.

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R., Jeuken, A., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Accounting for uncertainty and flexibility in flood risk management: comparing Real In Options and Adaptation Tipping Points. Journal of Flood Risk Management,

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Adaptation of flood risk infrastructure for climate resilience. Proceedings of the ICE - Civil Engineering, Volume 165, Issue 6, 01 November 2012 , pages 40 –45 , ISSN: 0965-089X, E-ISSN: 1751-7672.

Gersonius, B., Ashley, R. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) The identity approach for assessing socio-technical resilience to climate change: example of flood risk management for the Island of Dordrecht. Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, Vol. 12, pp 2139-2146, 10-7-2012.

Gersonius, B., Nasruddin, F., Ashley, R., Jeuken, A., Pathirana, A. & Zevenbergen, C. (2012) Developing the evidence base for mainstreaming adaptation of stormwater systems to climate change. Water Research. 15;46(20):6824-35. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2012.03.060.

Rijke, J., van Herk, S., Zevenbergen, C., Ashley, R., (2012)
Room for the River: Delivering integrated river basin management in the Netherlands. The International Journal of River Basin, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2012

Book chapters

Zevenbergen, C and Pathirana, A.  (2012) Managing urban flooding in the face of continuous change. In: Resilience and Urban Risk Management. Edited by Richard Laganier, CRC Press 2012, ISBN: 978-0-415-62147-2. DOI: 10.1201/b12994-1

Gersonius, B., Veerbeek, W., Subhan, A., Stone, K., Zevenbergen, C. and Herk, van S. (2011): Toward a More Flood Resilient Urban Environment: The Dutch Multi-level Safety Approach to Flood Risk Management . K. Otto-Zimmermann (ed.), Resilient Cities: Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change - Proceedings of the Global Forum 2010, Local Sustainability 1, DOI 10.1007/978-007-0785-6_28.

Zevenbergen, C. (2010) Towards flood resiliient cities. In:  Building with Water. Concepts Typology Design. Zoe Ryon. ISBN 979-3-0346-0156-6.  Birkhauser Verlaf AG.

Books & proceedings

Zevenbergen, C., Cashman, A., Evelpidou, N., Pasche. E. ,  Garvin. S., Ashley. R. (2010). Urban Flood Management, CRC Press, 340 pp,  ISBN-10: 0415559448, ISBN-13: 978-0415559447.

Pasche, E., N. Evelpidou, C. Zevenbergen, R. Ashley, S. Garvin. (Eds.). (2009). Road map towards a flood resilient urban environment. Hamburger Wasserbau-schriften, Band 6.  ISBN 978-3-937693-12-5.

Ashley, R., Garvin, S.,Pasche, E., Vassilopoulos, A. and Zevenbergen, C. (Eds.). (2007). Advances in Urban Flood Management. Taylor and Francis. ISBN: 978 0 415 43662 5.

Zevenbergen,  C., Szollosi-Nagy, A. (2004) Urban Flood Management, Published by A.A. Balkema, 2004 ISBN 10: 0415359988 / ISBN 13: 9780415359986

Other information

PhD fellows

  • F. Ahmed: Application of resilience to flood risk management in Dhaka
  • K. Annema: 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