Rhine Estuary-Drecht Towns

In the Rhine Estuary/Drecht Towns region around Rotterdam and Dordrecht, water comes in from four directions: from the sea, the rivers, the air (precipitation) and the ground (seepage). This is a densely populated area with major economic significance for the Netherlands. All of these issues make the Rhine Estuary/Drecht Towns region vulnerable. A preferred strategy has therefore been drawn up for this area as part of the national Delta Programme.

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 in order, now and in the future. These are the aims of the Preferential Strategy for the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Region. The region has been working on the implementation of this strategy since 2014. A periodical evaluation of the study was conducted in 2020. The three Delta Decisions for Flood Risk ManagementFreshwater Supply, and Spatial Adaptation constitute the framework for implementation, as does the Delta Decision for the Delta Decision on 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 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.

As a result of climate change, with sea level rise and higher river discharges as the consequences, the challenge for flood risk management will become greater in the longer term. After 2050, it will be necessary to make decisions in principle about how best to maintain protection for this area. Until then, the current system of dikes, dunes and storm surge barriers in this area complies with the requirements for flood protection. It is important to devote attention to the following areas: 

  • Keeping options open for measures required in the future, for example by ringfencing space.
  • The higher frequency of extended dry periods, putting pressure on the region’s freshwater supplies.
  • Implementing spatial-adaptation measures, for example in the unprotected areas outside the dikes. 


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 the preferred strategy for the Rhine Estuary/Drecht Towns region.

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