Case studies: Kleine Nete catchment

Creating ecological flooding zones at recreation areas

The Kleine Nete is a rain river in the sandy north-east of the Province of Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium. It is one of the most natural rivers in the densely populated area.The agricultural sector is the principal land user along the KleineNete and bears the water in the case of flooding. There are few buildings in this area, so, hydrologically speaking, the valley is unspoilt.

To climate-proof this specific environment, a number of measures have already been successfully implemented . However, specific attention should be given to potential sites near recreation areas in the city of Kasterlee. These recreation areas have an economic function. It is therefore not evident to make alterations to the water course here. The economic sector is vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, but at the same time is also not really willing to cede space.

The Kleine Nete is a living laboratory that can teach us how to combine hard, rather economic allocations with water and ecological systems.

Image of Kleine Nete


Taking the Interests of all stakeholders involved into account, it was clear that traditional water management options could not meet all demands. The technical option would preserve the interests of the economic stakeholders, but would have a considerable negative impact on the natural character of the valley. Whereas a natural solution would require space that would never be available.

The alternative was to look into (technical) solutions  that make use of natural forces and elements into the design of water development projects.

Therefore, Flanders Environment Agency carried out a number of design studies for the development of innovative BwN-concepts.


Flanders Environment Agency contracted a landscape architect who executed a pre-design-study based on a methodological approach in which as many potential solutions and design scenarios as possible can be explored.

First of all, various water storage principles were identified at conceptual level. A distinction was made between the following potential BwN measures:

  • dike relocation
  • remeandering
  • buffering
  • sequential use

The research phase was executed within the BwN project. Project partners gave feedback on the different scenario’s. Taking into account the overall scope of the project, BwN measures including large-scale implementations of small measures (e.g. planting trees) were not considered.

Taking into account the location-specific characteristics and challenges, different solutions will be implemented following a different time frame:

Camping site Korteheidethe preferred alternative consists of a re-meandering. By this measure, the camping will lose 54 places for caravans. These will be compensated in 2 parcels.

Amusement park ‘Bobbejaanlandthe preferred alternative is an ecological buffer zone along the Kleine Nete and a parking deck in between this buffer zone and the park.

Recreation site ‘Ark van Noë: the preferred alternative consists of a re-meandering. The area has to be reorganised slightly, but this is possible without major disturbances.

Future research directions

Potential future research directions are:

  • Look into how BwN-measures can be linked to (more) detailed climate models, allowing local authorities, businesses and citizens to prefer these measures over traditional single-purpose options
  • Look into how BwN-measures also contribute to seasonal balancing of river systems, e.g. quantify their potential to not only deal with excessive rainfall (winter), but also to possibly be beneficial for dry (summer) periods
  • Potential to test comparable measures in different locations


All documents of the BwN project can be found at publications,  below you find the documents belonging to this specific case study:

Building with Nature Interactive Project Map

Building with Nature Interactive Project Map