Ronald E. Waterman's life is dedicated to finding answers to the question how can we – by creating added value – develop well-balanced and integrated solutions in the fields of space, economy and environment to existing and future problems in densely populated areas.

As a well-respected specialist in chemical, environmental and civil engineering (Delft University, MIT, Illinois Institute of Technology) Ronald E. Waterman is providing consultancy services to governments and international organisations in approx. 50 countries around the world with regard to Coastal Development and Land Reclamation based on the principle of
Building with Nature.

Coastal urbanisation

Many civilisations found their origin and were often developed in the border zone land-water, in coastal and deltaic regions. Therefore, it is not a surprise that at the beginning of the 21st century, around 80 % of the largest population centres in the world is found in coastal areas.
Striking examples of coastal urbanisation can be found in nearly all continents, such as Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama, Osaka-Kobe, Seoul-Inchon, Pusan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Manila, Jakarta, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Karachi, Dhaka, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Lima-Callao, Montevideo, New York, Los Angeles-Long Beach, San Francisco, Vancouver, Alexandria-Cairo, Lagos, Cape Town, Istanbul, Saint Petersburg, London, Randstad Holland.

In these densely populated coastal and deltaic areas there are many existing and future problems in need of solutions, but also with challenging opportunities to create added value. In all areas mentioned there is only little space available for living, working, transport and recreation, while at the same time there is the need to preserve or even enlarge natural coastal and deltaic habitats.

In addition to space issues safety problems caused by climate change should be dealt with. Sea level rise, the high intensity and frequency of storm surgers, salt water intrusion in the existing hinterland and land subsidence demand adequate actions in order to minimize the effects of these life-threatening developments. This also applies to the existing hinterland, where higher frequencies of intensive rain with periods of extreme draught in between, in combination with quick surface water run-off to the rivers caused by hard surface conditions, are challenging factors to be taken into account.

Sustainability first and last
The biggest challege of the 21st century is the development and implementation of methods that at the same time strengthen the economy and improve the environment, while making optimum use of the available space. In addition
sustainability of production and consumption processes should be strived for in coastal zone areas. This is crucial in achieving a minimal global footprint. The environmental footprint can be regarded as a function of population size, lifestyles and technology.


Building with Nature
For the scarcity of space there are in principle three spatial solutions, apart from the necessity of in due time population stabilisation:
1) Making better use of the 3rd dimension (sky scraping & underground development) and of the 4th dimension (recycling of functions) and multifunctional use within the present available space;
2) Using space in the existing hinterland;
3) Seaward option with flexible integration of land in water (sea, estuary, lake and/or river) and of water into the new and old land (tidal lagoons, lakes, harbour basins, canals, waterway and/or fresh water lenses under dunes), making use of materials and forces / interactions present in nature, with special attention to the intensive relation water-land.

Worldwide, all these options are applied solely, or in combination. The seaward option gives unique possibilities for the application of multi-functional use. Sustainable coastal zone development is therefore an important multi-faceted instrument to give an adequate answer to the scarcity of space, while it offers at the same time unique opportunities for an improved coastal safety as well as for an improved water resources system.
The seaward option is based on two important principles, being
Integrated Coastal Policy and Building with Nature.