“Once in a life-time”. A documentary on living with water

Since I arrived to the Netherlands, I wondered if Dutch people are afraid of living with water. That idea gave me the opportunity to do research about the effects of the high water and evacuation of 1995 in the lives of the residents, as part of the Hydro Social Deltas Project coordinated by Dr. Anna Wesselink from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education.

The Hydro-Social Deltas research project seeks to understand the dynamic interplay between hydrological processes (flooding, riverbank erosion, waterlogging) and social processes (migration, urbanization processes, governance) in the urbanizing delta of Bangladesh and the urbanized delta of the Netherlands. Obvious differences aside, both countries are involved in long-term climate change-induced system planning in dynamic deltas. The advanced understanding of hydro-social interactions will support policies and strategies for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. The documentary ‘One in a life-time’ summarizes my findings but I want to share briefly my experience with you as well.

cristina pinto high water

I am an Ecuadorian student just graduated from Wageningen University. I did my Master in Environmental Sciences in the track Water Systems and Global Change. My internship was done in collaboration with IHE Delft Institute during the period May – October 2017. My professional interest is water governance. Thus, I chose a social related topic in Dutch water management.

My experience during the internship was great! By riding my bike along dikes and roads in the Rivierenland and Duffelt area, I met friendly people that were evacuated and who shared their experiences. I interviewed twenty people who in most of the cases, showed me books, booklets, newspapers and remembrances of the high water and evacuation of 1995. Contacting people was a challenge and required a strategy to make sure they had the time and willingness to talk. The language was a barrier that was overpassed successfully but definitively limited the scope of my interviewees and in some cases, a detailed understanding of their stories.  Personal contacts and recommendations from my supervisor were the first entrance and then, the interviewees suggested more people. Most of the interviewees agreed with been filmed and recorded. They were very enthusiastic remembering 1995 and they even shared anecdotes and jokes. My findings surprised me and some additional questions rised, such as: what made the difference between been calm or scared during the event? Why did most of the interviewees talk about the others being scared and not themselves? Why did people evacuate in advance but apparently, they were not scared? Are water professionals aware of the risk? Did people consider right or wrong the decision to evacuate? If something similar happens in the future, would people evacuate?

Here you can watch the documentary…and try to find some answers, or come up with additional questions!

The communication skills and learnings that I gained were an added value of my internship. I participated in the IHE Delft summer course ‘Visual Methods for Water Communication’ , and I was also continuously supported by Mr. Wim Glass, who was my technical supervisor. Without these two key inputs, the production of the documentary would not had been possible. Presenting results through a video constituted a continuous learning process. Definitively, visual methods are not merely a different way of presenting results but also, an innovative and interesting way of doing research!

For more information about the summer course on ‘Visual Methods for Water Communication’ you can watch this video by Roland Postma.


Finally, I hope you will enjoy watching the documentary as much as I enjoyed producing it!

Cite this blog post
cristinapinto (2017, December 8). “Once in a life-time”. A documentary on living with water. FLOWs. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/orzj


I am an Ecuadorian geographer (BSc) with a MSc in Environmental Sciences, specialized in integrated water management, water governance, and sustainable development. I recently finished my studies in Water Systems and Global Change at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, where I strengthened my knowledge and skills in the social, institutional and political aspects of environmental management, particularly water management. I did my internship at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education where I gained more skills in scientific research and I learned in detail about the Dutch water system. I have nine years of professional experience in social and environmental projects, the facilitation of collaborative processes among different stakeholders under intercultural settings, and the technical assistance to the public and private sector. I strongly believe that the processes towards sustainability in water management should involve a well-informed civil society participating actively with a leading government, a responsible private sector and a supportive academia.

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1 Response

  1. 21/06/2018

    […] I am proud that the course inspired one of the students, Cristina Pinto, from Ecuador, to make a documentary to present her research on the 1995 high water and evacuation in The Netherlands. You can read more about her work and watch “Once in a life-time. A story on living with water from the Dutch perspective” in another post of this blog . […]

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