Activating the 100RC Network: Vejle Learns about Water from Rotterdam

Cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network enjoy several benefits, but one of the most powerful for our team in Vejle has been the opportunity to learn from other cities that share our resilience challenges. Politicians and key personnel from Vejle visited Rotterdam recently to learn how the Dutch port city handles water challenges, and to see some of the social projects that they are currently implementing.

Rotterdam shared a number of ideas about projects in both the practice areas of water and social changes that Vejle representatives found rewarding, and which showed us how they organize work around their resilience priorities. The trip was especially relevant for Vejle Spildevand (the Vejle Waste Water Management Department), because the two cities share one specific climate change challenge – water – and their solutions seem very relevant for us despite the fact that Rotterdam is 10 times bigger than Vejle.

Witnessing Rotterdam’s relationship with water really impacted us. They don’t see water as a problem. They are convinced that water itself is the source of their city’s value, and as such, they handle water as a positive resource.

However, one of the most important lessons we learned dealt with how Rotterdam has involved different departments, politicians and projects. In fact, they measure their degree of resilience by how much cooperation is there across departments.

We are already thinking about how to adapt some of the inspiring motivations and ideas that they shared, and hope they will prove useful for us. Some of the most powerful include:

  • Dikes and sluices can be part of the natural environment – buildings can be constructed to integrate dikes as natural features, and in the green areas, dikes can be designed as an ”unseen” part of the landscape.
  • A wastewater processing technical plant similar to what we have in Vejle, except this basin mixes rain and wastewater. The basin itself is set up for observation; it features three big windows through which one can see the insides of the basin. This is a pedagogical display of the basin’s function and the water’s actual appearance, and it is easy to implement in Vejle.
  • A rainwater basin in a school in Rotterdam functions as a natural part of the school´s “outside room,” making possible a number of educational activities. If Hvis Vejle Spildevand can find a similar school, they will try to adapt this.
  • A new type of water mill they use, which may be interesting for Vejle Spildevand. We can use this type of mill in many of our multitude of plants, which will help us meet the goal of making Vejle a producer of energy, instead of just a user. We already expect these mills to be functional in 2014.
  • Their work on roofing and growing plants on the roofs of buildings to green them also impressed us, especially in the case of parking houses, which are sometimes the site of underground car racing and other undesirable activities.

  • They have the practice of replying to citizens who come for help by also asking the question, ”What can you do for us?” Their efforts to work with citizens who help can also help others empowered these citizens, helping them feel a new sense of self-worth. Norremarken will also consider the way they recruit volunteers, with an eye to professionals including social workers, SSP, economic consultants, and health pros.
  • They run a project to collect used baby clothes that is very interesting. As a practice, it can be an inspiration to our health agents or health workers. (See more at

  • We visited HOTSPOT, a special house that produces food and provides a space to eat it for young people with problems in school. It is run by a passionate teacher, who manages it during his free time. This can also be done in Vejle for example, in partnership with youth clubs or the Culinary House Nørremarken og Kvarterhus in Løget, og Dyrk Vejle. We think this could eventually be established as business for especially vulnerable people.

These are some of the specific projects and initiatives that we toured in Rotterdam that our team found the most inspiring and relevant. It was amazing to see how many simple projects and changes Rotterdam has implimented that can immediately help us improve the way we manage water and social projects.

In Vejle we are eager to start implimenting some of the amazing ideas about water that Rotterdam shared with us, and are encouraged by the chance to take advantage of the lessons other members of 100 Resilient Cities have already learned, to help us confront our resilience challenges.
Body photos by Vejle.

Header photo, excitingextravaganza, Flickr, Remixed by 100RC