The Rivers Rhine and Meuse play a key part in terms of water discharge and water availability, and additionally for the economy, ecology, and leisure facilities. The river dykes protect large parts of the Netherlands against flooding. The national Delta Programme encompasses several initiatives aimed at preserving and where necessary enhancing the functions of the major rivers.

Use of the rivers is expected to increase even further. At the same time, climate change is putting pressure on the river system. The measures scheduled under the national Delta Programme are addressing these developments.


The rising sea level, larger river discharge volumes, more extreme rainfall, and longer periods of drought and heat are causing great changes. In the future, the rivers must be capable of discharging more water. Furthermore, parts of the riverbed are out of balance: in several river stretches, the main channel is eroding whilst the floodplains are silting up. Riverbed erosion is lowering the water level even further in times of smaller discharge volumes. This is impacting shipping, the freshwater supply, and nature. It also impacts the Dutch economy. 

A new approach

Over recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the approach adopted under the national Delta Programme was no longer adequate. The focus was on flood risk management, i.e., on dyke improvement, dyke raising, and river widening. In many cases, the implementation of measures turned out to be cumbersome. The complex issues called for an interconnected approach, especially when the low river discharge volumes of 2018 and 2019 demonstrated that in addition to flood risk management, attention was also needed for freshwater supply, drought, navigability, riverbed erosion, and nature goals. This has prompted the central government, the region, and other partners to join forces and embark on a new national programme: Integrated River Management.

Integrated River Management Programme

Under the Integrated River Management (IRM) programme, the central government and the region are addressing the taskings and opportunities in the area around the major rivers up to 2050, and looking ahead to 2100. The essence of this programme is its integrated approach: only by addressing the taskings in an interconnected manner can we make well-considered choices regarding measures in the area around the major rivers. 
The first step under the IRM programme involves the development of an integrated perspective of the area around the major rivers. This encompasses an integrated analysis of the river system: what are the taskings, how do they relate to one another, and how will they develop in the future? Functions in and along the rivers will also be considered, such as shipping, nature quality, freshwater availability, and spatial-economic trends. This analysis constitutes the basis for the development of a future-proof river system that continues to do justice to all the functions. 
The policy goals and measures will be elaborated further in the course of 2020 and 2021.

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