The Veluwemeer Aqueduct: Netherland's Unique Water Bridge

Find out about the impressive Veluwemeer Aqueduct, a feat of engineering that connects two Dutch provinces across a lake.
Christopher McFadden
  • The Veluwemeer Aqueduct, also known as the Drontermeeraqueduct, is a unique structure in the Netherlands that carries a canal over a large lake.
  • This impressive water bridge spans the Veluwemeer lake, connecting the provinces of Flevoland and Gelderland.
  • It is an engineering marvel that has dramatically improved transportation and water management in the area.

The construction of the Veluwemeer Aqueduct was a challenging and complex feat of engineering that took years of planning and construction to complete. Here, we'll explore the history and structure of the Veluwemeer Aqueduct and the benefits it provides to the surrounding communities.

What is the Veluwemeer Aqueduct water bridge?

Opened in 2002, the Veluwemeer Aqueduct is a stunning architecture and engineering work. Engineers decided on a different approach: a water bridge, unlike other solutions allowing vehicular and waterborne traffic to pass over or under one another. Located over the N302 road, the aqueduct forms part of a lake of the same name. The road is interesting in and of itself, connecting mainland Netherlands to Flevoland — the largest artificial island in the world. 

Flevoland was constructed from reclaimed land in the region and is surrounded by three man-made lakes. This island comprises two drained sections, Flevopolder and Noordoostpolder, which contain Flevoland's 374.5 square miles (970 square kilometers) province. While designing the unique bridge structure, engineers constructed the waterway over the N302 road, where around 28,000 vehicles pass each day.

The Veluwemeer Aqueduct: Netherland's Unique Water Bridge
Aerial view of the Veluwemeer Aqueduct.

How does the Veluwemeer Aqueduct water bridge work?

The Veluwemeer Aqueduct is a shallow 9.83 feet (3 m) deep water bridge allowing small boats and other shallow-draft water vehicles to pass over the road safely and efficiently. In addition to allowing boats passage over the road, pedestrian walkways can be found on both sides, allowing foot traffic to cross. The road itself also includes designated cycle lanes. 

Unlike drawbridges or other roadway structures, the water bridge design allows constant traffic flow on the road and over the aqueduct. For most of the span of the N302 highway across the lake, the road is raised above the waterline by a stretch of artificial barriers, but for the short 55.7 feet (17 m) span on the aqueduct, the road plunges, briefly, underneath the lake's surface. 

Interestingly, around 1,3212 feet (400 m) NW of the aqueduct, the N302 crosses the lake again on a more traditional bridge structure.

Veluwemeer Lake (ps. "meer" is Dutch for lake) is one of fourteen 'bordering lakes' in the area, all of which are just a very long continuous body of water created by not ultimately connecting Flevoland and the Northeast Polder to the mainland of Netherlands. 

The Veluwemeer Aqueduct: Netherland's Unique Water Bridge
Closer view of the Veluwemeer Aqueduct's main structure as viewed from the main N302 carriageway. Source: Googlemaps

The lake system was initially constructed to help regulate water levels and the groundwater table in the surrounding areas. Now established, the lakes are also essential nature reserves (especially for water birds) and recreational areas for residents.

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The aqueduct was named after the lake it serves, while the lake was named after the Veluwe region of Gelderland, due south of the lake. The Veluwemeer Aqueduct was built using 776,922 cubic ft (22,000 cubic m) of concrete and steel sheet piling to hold the water's weight above the roadway and prevent sediment from bleeding onto the road.

Why was the Veluwemeer Aqueduct built?

During the planning phase for the project, drawbridges, ferries, and tunnels were considered possible solutions to allow the road to cross the lake fully. However, these were decided against, and the novel approach of building a short aqueduct over the road was selected. Because the N302 is a significant highway, stopping traffic flow using a drawbridge or ferry solution was deemed unrealistic and inefficient. 

A tunnel, also likely considered, would have required too much time and expense compared to the aqueduct solution finally settled upon. A bridge, while a more typical solution to the problem, was deemed far too costly compared to the more reasonable cost of the aqueduct solution, at around $61 million. Given that the point at which it was to be built did not need to carry wide water traffic, its narrow aqueduct design was also deemed a wise choice.

The Veluwemeer Aqueduct: Netherland's Unique Water Bridge
Water level view of theVeluwemeer Aqueduct. Source: Jan van der Wolf/Googlemaps

While this structure does not set any records, it does stand as one of the shortest aqueducts in the world. Not to mention one of the world's most interesting. 

And that is your lot for today.

The Veluwemeer Aqueduct is a remarkable achievement of modern engineering and a symbol of the Netherlands' innovative approach to water management. The water bridge has improved transportation and navigation and enabled better water distribution and flood control. With its unique design and practical benefits, the Veluwemeer Aqueduct has become a popular tourist attraction and a source of pride for the local communities. As we look to the future, it will be exciting to see how new technologies and approaches to water management will continue to shape the landscapes and infrastructure of the Netherlands and beyond.