The north flank of the Hondsrug ridge forms a steep border to the low-lying, wet, peaty landscape of the Hunze Valley. After the penultimate Ice Age, the primaeval valley of the Hunze Valley was filled with fine sand and later covered with thick pillows of raised bog. Now there is a low peaty landscape which, in the area around the Zuidlaardermeer lake, is largely set up as a nature reserve. The wish to allow this area to benefit from the seepage water from the Hondsrug ridge is at odds with the extraction of Groningen drinking water, which takes place here too. Although the Hunze Valley borders the towns of Hoogezand, Haren and Groningen, the area is not easily accessible; this is the point where the city and nature reserve back on to each other.
Due to reduced rainfall and increased evaporation during summer, parts of the Northern Netherlands are threatening to dry out during the summer. The freshwater supply from the IJsselmeer to these areas will become increasingly uncertain in the future. In the winter, the excess rainfall is drained away to the Wadden Sea, a process that is becoming more difficult due to the rising sea level. This, in turn, is going to cause a water safety problem. In the Hunze Valley, enough fresh water needs to be stored to prevent the peat from oxidating, extract thirty per cent more drinking water, and to be able to export fresh water to surrounding areas.
The disbalance between excess rainfall and a shortage of rain in a local and natural source of fresh water. The stream running from the Hunze river valley is becoming a sponge landscape which makes optimal use of the supply of fresh seepage water from the Drents Plateau, which is located on higher ground. The landscape charges itself up like a battery during the wet winter months. This ensures that there is enough drinking water during the dry summer months and promotes the development of natural wetlands. This also eliminates the dependency on the water supply from the IJsselmeer.
A sponge landscape offers a perspective for a wide range of projects. For example, it prevents subsidence of the peat soils and CO2 is no longer emitted but stored away in new forests and – over time- new peat marshes. With a guaranteed fresh water supply, the agricultural transition in the adjacent Veenkoloniën can get underway. The biodiversity and the economic and recreational value of the area is increasing with the emergency of a vast wetland. The area forms a place of refuge for migrating wetland birds. Together with Geopark de Hondsrug and the Drentsche Aa, the Hunze Valley forms a vast, new, formidable national landscape.
Bureau B+B Urbanism and Landscape Architecture