Award-winning math may save us billions

A new approach to flooddefense measures won the Franz Edelman Award last week. TU emeritus Professor Kees Roos says it may save us nearly 8 billion euros over the next 40 years.

A team from Deltares, Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), Tilburg University and TU Delft was awarded the Franz Edelman Award for best achievement in operations research for their rational approach to flood protection in the Netherlands. According to their analysis, three areas in the Netherlands deserve special flood protection: Rotterdam, Almere and the Betuwe.

Back in 2006 Professor Kees Roos (EEMCS) was approached for the mathematical support of the ideas of the economist Carel Eijgenraam from the CPB. Eijgenraam proposed to adopt national flood protection standards based on cost-benefit analysis. In short: valuable regions deserve better protection.

This was a different approach from the second Delta Commission that advised to reduce the overall risk for flooding by a factor of ten. The cost of this overhaul was estimated at 11.5 billion euros until 2050.

“We had to combine probabilities of flooding, which may as well come from the rivers as from the sea, with the economic consequences”, says Roos. “So you have the expected damage plus the investment costs for dike upgrading that you have to minimise. This makes it an optimization problem, which happens to be my expertise.”

This led to a two year long and complicated exercise during which a cost function for dike upgrades was made, as well as a formula for flooding probabilities and one for damage costs.

“If our advice was followed”, said Jaap Kwadijk (Deltares) at the Award Ceremony, “the investment costs are 3.7 billion euro, which is 7.8 billion euro less than the advice of the second Delta Commission.”

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