The government established the Delta Programme to prepare the Netherlands for the consequences of climate change. The Rhine is required to discharge increasingly large volumes of water and extremely low discharges are becoming more frequent. Uneven changes in the location of the bed also affect navigability, water supplies (through discharge allocation) and nature. An integrated approach to these challenges is needed.
Challenges for the river area
In the Integrated River Management (IRM) programme, the Rhine Delta Programme will be collaborating in the decades ahead on a future-resilient river system that functions well, has multiple uses and can be sustainably managed. The system will support an optimal balance between flood risk management, nature and water quality, freshwater availability and navigability, and enough space for an attractive river area.
IRM is seeking solutions for existing bottlenecks in the river basin and anticipates future developments such as climate change. IRM in the river area therefore addresses the themes of the National Delta Programme.
Preferred strategy for the Rhine
IRM is an adaptive programme with a range of interventions, studies and processes between now and 2050, looking ahead to 2100. The first step in the development of IRM is a Programme under the Environment Act (POW) with new policies for discharge capacity and riverbed location, a vision of the future river area and guiding principles for the new integrated collaboration between authorities in the area.
The POW, which will be adopted in 2024, will guide further elaboration in the Rhine area. The first periodical evaluation of the preferred strategy for the Rhine Delta Programme will take place via the IRM programme in 2026.
Particularly in the area enclosed by the Rhine distributaries to the east of Nijmegen (the splitsingspuntengebied), the river bed has been increasingly eroded. This has negative effects on nature, freshwater supplies, flood risk management and shipping. IRM will first focus on preventing further deterioration. The aim between now and 2050 is to raise specific stretches of the riverbed. IRM launched a pilot project for replenishing sediment in the Midden-Waal in 2022.
Multiple use of space and flood risk management
Because of the multiplicity of wishes and ambitions for the river area, enough space must be kept available for the various agendas. At the same time, choices have to be made and a commitment is needed to using space in multiple ways. This requires an integrated approach and measures that are not isolated but part of a logical and coordinated whole. A future-resilient river system can be developed only on the basis of integrated assessments and collaboration. IRM provides concrete suggestions for this purpose.
IRM is looking at how other spatial interventions such as river widening can contribute to the flood risk management agenda before and after 2050. River widening opens up options for limiting water levels during peak discharges due to climate change before and after 2050. It also provides options for implementing agendas arising from nature, freshwater availability and shipping.
Research will begin for the Rhine distributaries into the desired high-water distribution after 2050 once the KNMI 2023 Climate Scenarios are available. The results will provide input for area development and projects in the area.
As a result of climate change, there are increasingly frequent (and often long) periods of drought. For the main water system, the ambition is to establish a resilient system to cope with water scarcity. This also applies to the influx of water to the IJsselmeer and Eastern Netherlands (the Twente canals). A specific focus of IRM is low-water allocation in the Gelderse Poort to the Waal, Nederrijn-Lek and IJssel.
Water and soil as leading factors
With the IRM, we are implementing the policy line presented by the national government in November 2022 to let water and soil lead the spatial planning of our country.
Work in progress
Along the Rhine, plans are being elaborated for a number of integrated projects, such as the IJsselpoort River Climate Park. Seven projects were selected for the Rhine in the context of IRM in 2022. In 2023, the third tranche of the budget for the Programmatic Approach for the Main Water System (PAGW) became available for the IJssel-Vecht Delta and the Gelderse Poort. That also includes an integrated approach.