Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns

In the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns, the area from the the Hollandsche IJssel to Haringvliet and from the Hook of Holland to the Biesbosch, the water comes from four directions: from the sea, the rivers, the air (precipitation) and the ground (seepage). This is a densely populated area, interspersed with rural areas, that has major economic significance for the Netherlands. All these factors make the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns region vulnerable. A preferred strategy has therefore been drawn up for flood risk management in this area as part of the national Delta Programme. The provincial and municipal authorities, the water authorities, the safety regions, the national government and the business community in the region are working together to implement this preferred strategy for the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns region. 

The Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns is an area of extremes: with port activities, urban areas, the Greenports (horticulture), the Green Heart and nature areas such as De Biesbosch. Economic and spatial development is possible here only if flood risk management, freshwater supplies and climate resilience are up to standard, now and in the future. These are the aims of the preferred strategy for the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns. The region has been working since 2014 on the implementation of this strategy, which was re-evaluated in 2020. The three Delta Decisions for Flood risk managementFresh water, and Spatial adaptation constitute the framework for implementation, as does the Delta Decision for the Rhine-Meuse Delta.


Some dikes in the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns region do not yet comply with the new standards. A higher level of protection has been agreed for most dikes in recent years because the number of people and the value of the assets behind the dikes has increased. Where dikes are built on peat, land subsidence is also leading to an additional challenge for flood risk management.  

The sound maintenance of the storm surge barriers and dike upgrades is essential to maintain the closable-open strategy for the flood defences until after 2070. Future scenarios are being elaborated for the long term. These scenarios provide information about the desirability, or not, of short-term spatial investments in the various areas. In addition, the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns Delta Programme is working on spatial adaptation strategies for the dike zones and areas outside the dikes, and the development of plans for crisis management. The Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns Delta Programme is actively committed to establishing the appropriate structures and boundary conditions for area developments.  

As a result of climate change, which leads to sea level rise and higher river discharges, the challenge for flood risk management will become greater in the longer term. At present, and until at least 2070, the current system of dikes, dunes and storm surge barriers in this area complies with the requirements for flood risk management. After 2070, it will be necessary to make decisions in principle about how best to maintain protection for this area. The Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme provides important information in this respect that will be included in the next periodical evaluation for the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns. It is important to pay attention to the following areas:  

  • Keeping options open for measures required in the future, for example by ringfencing space for dike upgrade operations in the future. 
  • Formulating long-term strategies in terms of space requirements and making a comparison with planned spatial investments. 
  • The higher frequency of extended dry periods, which put pressure on the region’s freshwater supplies. 
  • Implementing spatial-adaptation measures, for example in the unprotected areas outside the dikes.  

Regional Conference

On Monday, 5 June 2023, the Regional Conference of the Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns Delta Programme took place in the presence of Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, the chair of the Regional Consultation Platform. There were some 180 participants attending the conference, in addition to Delta Commissioner Peter Glas and programme manager Pieter Jacobs.  

Giving young people an explicit voice and further developing the connections between flood risk management and other topics such as fresh water and spatial developments were the themes covered during the day. Current events in and around the Delta Programme were discussed extensively. For example, the signing of the Hollandsche IJssel Administrative Agreement on Flood Risk Management, developments in the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme and a mini-debate on building in flood-prone areas. 

You can read the detailed report of the Regional Conference with lots of photos, links to videos and presentations here!