Measures for High-Lying Areas with Sandy Soils

A great deal has already been achieved in recent years in the national Delta Programme in terms of addressing the agendas for the high-lying areas with sandy soils. A large number of new projects are also planned for the years ahead.  

The measures for the high-lying areas with sandy soils have been set out in detail in the Delta Plans for Flood risk management, Fresh water, and Spatial adaptation.

Milestones 2015-2023

In recent years, a lot of hard work has gone into the agendas for these areas. Milestones include: 

  • In recent years, provincial and municipal authorities, water authorities and other partners have executed more than 300 projects on the high-lying areas with sandy soils in the South, East and North. The size of the groundwater buffer has been increased and water use has been reduced.  
  • Rijkswaterstaat brought the capacity of the Noordervaart up to standard for water intake to the Brabant and Limburg canal system. The water authorities improved the underlying regional water system so that the incoming water could reach the ‘capillaries’. 
  • In the dry year of 2018, there was large-scale damage to nature, historical green areas and agricultural crops on the high-lying sandy soils. However, the measures implemented in the past proved effective. In particular, the small-scale measures in nature areas (such as filling in ditches) and in the surrounding agricultural area (such as level-controlled drainage, water conservation in farm ditches and brook restoration) are a first step towards restoring the system. Without these measures, damage as a result of drought would have been more extensive in 2018. 
  • Most of the measures in the first phase have now been completed. Work has now begun on some of the measures for the second phase.  
  • The Northern, Eastern and Southern Netherlands regions established new working programmes for the second phase in 2021. The new programmes build on the approach from the first phase, with measures in three main categories: adjustments to the water system, water use and land use.  
  • In September 2022, an independent advisory committee presented the final report ‘No Water, No Future’ about ways to tackle water shortages in Noord-Brabant. This report also produced insights that apply to other parts of the high-lying areas with sandy soils. The parties working together in Noord-Brabant adopted the advisory report and implemented it as the 2040 Drought Agenda. 

Plans for 2024-2027

In the coming years, many projects and activities are on the agenda for the implementation of the strategy for the high-lying areas with sandy soils. Optimising the water system is no longer enough; an extensive transition is needed to make these areas future-resilient. The consequences of climate change are now apparent, and both local people and land users will have to learn to cope with longer dry periods.  

In recent years, the emphasis was on exploiting opportunities and ‘no-regret measures’, in other ways measures that people will not regret after they have been implemented. The time ahead will be devoted to extending and connecting the measures. 

Measures for the years to come include: 

  • Flexible level management in the water system of the regional water management authorities;   
  • Brook restoration and the re-profiling of registered watercourses;  
  • Controlled drainage and underwater drainage;  
  • Reduction of local drainage and water run-off;  
  • Disconnecting paved surfaces from the drains and redirecting the water to storage or infiltration facilities;  
  • Improving the soil structure;  
  • Targeted irrigation systems;   
  • Company-specific incentive plans;  
  • Adaptation of land use: changes in function to provide room for water;   
  • Working with all stakeholders in an area-specific way on freshwater retention and/or the economic use of water;  
  • Transforming coniferous woods into heathland woods or deciduous woods.  

Retaining water in the soil and watercourses helps to prevent droughts and flooding. Water is retained in close consultation with the parties concerned. The implementation of other agendas – such as the energy transition, the agricultural transition, environmental policy and agendas for the economy, quality of life and health – is also being coordinated.  

The measures will be elaborated in appropriate ways for each individual area in the high-lying areas with sandy soils in the Southern,  Eastern and Northern Netherlands. Some of the freshwater measures will be included in the provincial elaborations of the National Programme for Rural Areas.  

Knowledge and research

Research into developments on these areas for the period 2022-2027 is covered by the Knowledge Agenda of the Delta Programme. The Southern and Eastern regions are working on these questions in the TKI-KLIMAP knowledge programme (the successor to Lumbricus, the research programme for a climate-robust soil and water system). The Southern and Eastern regions are reformulating the KNMI scenarios and the national bottleneck analysis in terms appropriate for the high-lying areas with sandy soils.