Preferred strategy for High-Lying Areas with Sandy Soils

These areas are vulnerable to water shortages. Dry periods have structural implications for the groundwater and surface water. It is therefore essential to improve freshwater availability. Measures are required to bring this about. Events in 2018 showed how much damage extreme drought can cause, particularly in agriculture and horticulture. Water shortages also have negative effects on nature and water quality in nature areas and brooks. 2019, 2020 and 2022 were also particularly dry years. In addition to water shortages, these areas are also vulnerable to problems with excess water. It is therefore important to coordinate the various measures properly so that a new balance is created. 

The partners in the North, East and South of the Netherlands worked together to draw up a long-term ambition and strategy for the time between now and 2050. The ambition has been defined as follows: ‘To make the High-Lying Areas with Sandy Soils in the North, East and South of the Netherlands climate-resilient and water-robust so that the regions can cope with extreme weather and water shortages’. This means that an area-wide approach is needed for the intended resilient water/groundwater system. A programme with specific measures (2022-2027) addresses the short term. The perspective for the future is: ‘By 2027, climate-resilient and water-robust planning will be the usual practice. By 2027, 20% of the High-Lying Areas with Sandy Soils will comply with the ambition for 2050.’ Freshwater and spatial adaptation measures will be interrelated as much as possible and limited water availability in the summer will be taken into account. 

Managing groundwater stocks

The core of the preferred strategy is the active management of groundwater stocks with the aim of improving the retention of the water in the area. The decision to implement the active management of groundwater stocks follows from one of the recommendations of the Drought Policy Platform. There are several examples of this management approach: directing water influx for groundwater replenishment during the winter, retaining water in the local water systems and in agricultural soils, and raising groundwater levels and replenishing groundwater. Other options include: the infiltration of rainwater in the urban area, and the saving and reuse of water by agriculture, by business and by the general public. For most of the high-lying areas with sandy soils where there is no possibility of water influx through canals or rivers, declining groundwater levels due to precipitation shortfalls must always be taken into consideration during the growing season. By making the stocks larger, and maintaining a higher groundwater level in the spring, it is possible to get through long dry periods.  

Measures in conjunction

Integrality is important and the freshwater approach is therefore linked to spatial agendas for areas such as agriculture, nature and the economy, and to other water and climate agendas. The effects of extreme weather on the high-lying areas with sandy soils require a coordinated approach.  
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