The Afsluitdijk

The Afsluitdijk is a 32 km long dyke that separates the Wadden Sea from the IJsselmeer in the Netherlands. Built largely by hand and completed in 1932, it is one of this country’s engineering highlights. The Afsluitdijk has been protecting the Netherlands from the sea for 90 years now.

It is also used for road and water traffic and for recreational purposes. As such, it is a vital piece of infrastructure that has helped make the Netherlands a prosperous and safe country.

The Afsluitdijk is an iconic symbol of the Netherlands’ battle against water

The dyke is under tremendous strain from the effects of climate change, however, and in urgent need of renovation. The Afsluitdijk is an iconic symbol of the Netherlands’ struggle against water. Reinforcing it will ensure continued protection for the country for many years to come.

New cladding, pumps and sluices to improve Afsluitdijk

The Afsluitdijk will be strong enough to withstand waves that crash against the dyke - even during a superstorm

Rijkswaterstaat plans to strengthen the Afsluitdijk along its entire length and bolster all of its components. The outer side of the dyke facing the Wadden Sea will be covered with new cladding that is strong enough to withstand the waves that crash against the dyke - even during a superstorm that is expected to occur only once every 10,000 years.

‘Levvel blocs’, each weighing 6,500 kg, will be placed on top of the basalt blocks on the lower slope to break the waves. Their symmetrical positioning gives them a tranquil appearance, reinforcing the austere and autonomous character of the dyke. Each block will be fitted with a GPS chip, making them easy to inspect and maintain.

Improving safety Afsluitdijk

Several additional measures are being taken to improve the safety of the Afsluitdijk. These include the construction of new sluices and the installation of pumps. The sluices at Den Oever and Kornwerderzand will be reinforced and floodgates will be built in front of the navigation locks on the Wadden Sea side.

These storm surge barriers can be closed in extreme weather conditions to protect the navigation locks from the force of the water.

Additional sluices and a pumping station will be built at Den Oever so more water can be released from the IJsselmeer into the Wadden Sea. The fish-friendly pumps are low-energy and powered by renewable energy from solar panels on the Afsluitdijk.

An eye for nature, spatial quality and history in the Afsluitdijk

The Afsluitdijk separates the Wadden Sea from the IJsselmeer, 2 areas of unique natural beauty. We will take this into account in the preparation and implementation of the project. For example, water birds rest and feed in the shadow of the dyke. In some places, we will not work all year round to respect the animals’ needs.

The Afsluitdijk also has great cultural-historical and touristic value. Indeed, it is an icon of the Netherlands’ constant struggle against water and an international calling card for Dutch hydraulic engineering. The Afsluitdijk also has an important military history.

The government is keen to preserve this area’s unique values to the greatest possible extent during the reinforcement of the dyke.

Regional and international cooperation

Rijkswaterstaat works with partners in the Netherlands and abroad to find solutions to water management challenges. This creates a strong network of partnerships. It also leads to smarter and more effective solutions for everyone. 

In the Netherlands, Rijkswaterstaat works closely with the government and regional authorities to integrate their goals in renewable energy, nature development, recreation and tourism. 

This has resulted in numerous initiatives, including the construction of a recreational cycle path on the Wadden Sea side of the dyke, improvements to the public space around the Afsluitdijk and the upgrading of facilities.

We work closely with the government and regional authorities to integrate their goals in renewable energy, nature development, recreation and tourism

There are also a number of renewable energy pilot projects, as well as an art project with innovator Daan Roosegaarde. We are building a fish passage and a migration river that will allow fish to swim from salt water to fresh water.

Regional authorities are taking the lead on many of these initiatives and will work out the details with central government. Together, we are building a safe, sustainable, attractive and future-proof dyke that will benefit the people of the Netherlands for generations to come.

The New Afsluitdijk

Regional authorities working together under the name 'The New Afsluitdijk' have formulated ambitions in the areas of economic development, ecology and sustainable energy that can be implemented simultaneously with the refurbishment of the Afsluitdijk. 

The New Afsluitdijk and the Dutch government are working intensively together, ensuring a safe, sustainable, attractive and future-proof dyke. Watch the video about the New Afsluitdijk.

It is an icon of our country. A structure spanning 32 kilometres one that has kept the Netherlands safe for over 80 years. That is something to be proud of. A wonder of the modern world, made of millions of cobblestones. Laid one by one by thousands of hands. It was built to keep the sea out and to create additional arable land. The water will always try to reclaim The Netherlands. By building our dikes, we the Dutch, have made it possible to live below sea level. To ensure our future safety we are reinforcing the Afsluitdijk. Once on every 10,000 years a storm can hit unlike any other. That is what the dike will protect us from. In order to drain excess water from the IJsselmeer into the Wadden Sea we are building what will be Europe’s largest pumping station within the dike, which will be ready to pump out water should the need arise. The Afsluitdijk will become a place where safety goes hand in hand with unique innovations. A place where we strive towards achieving sustainable energy. This is where we will harness the inexhaustible power of the current. And we are the only nation in the world that generates electricity from the convergence of freshwater and saltwater. We will be helping our wildlife too with the creation of the Fish Migration River. Fish will be able to reach their natural spawning grounds and habitats. This is what we are capable of: a large-scale, hydraulic work of art that is ready for the future. And that future starts here, in 2017 with the construction of the New Afsluitdijk.

Plan your visit to the Afsluitdijk

If you want to see the Afsluitdijk in action, visit the Afsluitdijk Wadden Centre. It will give you a more detailed idea of the history of the dyke and shed light on past and future projects. The information in the exhibition at the Afsluitdijk Wadden Centre is available in 10 languages.