Delta Programme 2011-2021
Historical overview Delta Programme
2011 saw the publication of the first Delta Programme: an elaboration of the recommendations submitted by the Delta Committee in 2008. This Delta Programme – also referred to as “Delta Plan 2.0” – set out how we can improve our flood risk management and keep our freshwater supply up to par in the century ahead. In subsequent years, the Delta Programme has been reviewed annually on the basis of new insights and research. The timeline below reflects the highlights from Delta Programmes 2011-2020.
Every six years, the Delta Programme reviews whether the course it has taken with respect to flood risk management, freshwater supply, and spatial adaptation still chimes with the circumstances. Delta Programme 2021 presents the outcomes of the first review. This has shown that up to 2050, the Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies are still on the right track. Some components have been adjusted. However, the efficient implementation of measures calls for additional attention, in order to achieve the goals for 2050 in due time. After 2050, the taskings may increase considerably as a result of the accelerated rise in sea level. In the years ahead, the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme will generate more information on this issue. Based on this knowledge, the second review, in 2026, will delve more deeply into the course to be taken after 2050. The Preferential Strategy for the rivers will be reviewed separately in 2022 under the Integrated River Management Programme.
In 2018, the Netherlands was faced with extreme weather conditions: prolonged drought, heat, and torrential rain. In the summer of 2019, the national heat record – dating back to 1944 – was broken. Research has shown that in the future, the sea level may potentially rise at a rate faster than that underpinning the Delta Scenarios. This tenth Delta Programme shows that the Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies contained in Delta Programme 2015 (DP2015) are still setting the right course. However, the initial steps of the first six-year review of these Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies have demonstrated that adjustments are needed. Furthermore, giving impetus to the implementation of the measures set out in the Delta Plans remains crucial. The new insights into the potential acceleration in sea level rise are adding to the uncertainties regarding measures for the period beyond 2050. The Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme that was recently rolled out will generate a better picture of these uncertainties.
Flood risk management remains an essential topic in the Delta Programme. The fact that we were able to close five storm surge barriers during a severe storm in January 2018 shows that the Netherlands is well protected. Adaptive delta management remains a spearhead. Meanwhile, tangible results have been achieved. For example, the first dyke improvements based on the new statutory standards are being prepared. In 2018, a new water level ordinance for the IJsselmeer Region was set down, enabling flexible water level management. This will enhance the resilience of the freshwater supply in a large part of the Netherlands and operationalise a significant proportion of the Delta Decision on the IJsselmeer Region. In addition, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the national Delta Programme partners are collaborating on a new Integrated River Management programme.
This Delta Programme was the first to comprise a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. This completed the triptych of Delta Plans – on Flood Risk Management, on Freshwater Supply, and on Spatial Adaptation. The Netherlands is experiencing increasingly frequent waterlogging caused by severe precipitation. According to the KNMI ’14 climate scenarios, extreme precipitation events will occur even more frequently in the future. This was a key reason for drawing up the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. Its aim is to render the Netherlands water-resilient and climate-proof.
Another important element in Delta Programme 2018 was the flood risk approach adopted in flood risk management policy. This approach is based on both the probability and the impact of a flood. It comes with new requirements for the flood defence systems, which have meanwhile been anchored in law. Furthermore, pilot studies are under way to provide more insight into the availability of fresh water.
On 1 January, the amended Water Act, comprising new flood protection standards, came into force.
In July 2016, the House of Representatives adopted the bill on new standards for primary flood defences. This marked an important milestone towards the statutory embedding of the Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management and the new risk-based approach. Another important element in this Delta Programme was adaptive delta management: looking ahead to the taskings facing us, collectively setting down measures, and continuously checking whether we are working at the right pace and in the right direction. Delta Programme 2017 contained the first elaboration of the “Monitoring – Analysing – Acting” system, the “engine” of adaptive delta management. This enables us to generate a clear picture of the progress made in the implementation of the Delta Programme.
The first steps have been taken towards freshwater supply policy agreements on “supply levels”. This new instrument gives consumers a better idea of where they stand in both normal and dry situations. It provides a firm basis for the development of additional freshwater availability measures. The interconnected water quality and freshwater supply strategies have been set down in the new National Water Plan (NWP2). One of the main challenges of the Delta Programme perhaps is the joint ambition to have rendered the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient by 2050. Delta Programme 2016 contained measures to be implemented collectively by all the stakeholders in pursuit of this goal. The future will see an increasing need for integrated solutions.
The fifth Delta Programme contained final proposals for structuring Delta Decisions aimed at improved protection against flooding and water shortages. The Delta Decisions have resulted in the adoption of a new approach in three fields: flood risk management, freshwater availability, and water-resilient spatial planning. A key element was the adoption of the flood risk approach in flood risk management policy: factoring in both the probability and the impact of a flood. The approach came with new standards for the flood defence systems. Several locations featured a higher protection level: locations prone to large numbers of casualties or major economic damage, or where failure of “vital infrastructure” could have a major national impact. The aim is for all the primary flood defences to meet the new standards by 2050. Delta Programme 2015 also contained the final proposals for regional Preferential Strategies: the strategic compass for the regional choices in terms of the measures ensuing from the Delta Decisions.
The fourth Delta Programme focused on a draft proposal for new flood protection standards. The new standards were underpinned by a risk-based approach: the stringency of the standards was determined by both the probability and the impact of a flood. The point of departure was an equal minimum protection level for every resident of the Netherlands: an annual flood probability of 1 in 100,000. Higher protection levels may apply for areas accommodating a great many people or major economic values. This enables a tailored approach. Delta Programme 2014 also proposed several specific government investments to improve the freshwater supply. Of the potential Delta Decisions and Strategies, the most promising ones were retained. Delta Programme 2014 set out the first schedule of measures to be implemented under the new Flood Protection Programme.
Since the second Delta Programme (DP2012), a better perception has been gained regarding the scope of the flood risk management tasking. The nationwide dyke inspections have revealed that many dykes fail to meet the requirements. Furthermore, at the end of 2011, data became available on social costs and benefits analyses of flood defences and on analyses of the risks of flood fatalities. According to the studies, the protection level sufficed for large parts of the Netherlands, yet several areas could require a higher protection level. The Delta Scenarios provide a picture of the potential future developments. With respect to the freshwater supply, these have been translated into bottlenecks and damage to consuming sectors such as agriculture, shipping, and power supply. This knowledge has been taken into account in the development of potential strategies to protect the Netherlands from flooding and to secure a sufficient supply of fresh water.
The Delta Act on Flood Risk Management and Freshwater Supply came into force. The Delta Act stipulates that a Delta Programme must be presented annually. It contains agreements on the duties and authorities of the Delta Programme Commissioner, and agreements on the funding of the Delta Programme.
The second Delta Programme continued the preparations for the five Delta Decisions, which were to be submitted to the Cabinet by 2015. The Decisions pertain to the updating of the standards for our dykes and other flood defences; to the availability and distribution of fresh water; to the IJsselmeer water level; to the manner in which the Rhine Estuary and Drechtsteden area can be kept safe without compromising its economic value; and to ways to take account of water issues in the development of cities and villages. The Delta Programme progressed as planned. The taskings have been mapped out and the initial conclusions have been drawn. The Regions (sub-programmes) are preparing solutions in the purview of the Delta Decisions that will take effect from 2014.
In fact, the first Delta Programme outlines the approach of the Delta Plan 2.0. The approach is based on measurements and the KNMI (2006) scenarios. Over the past century, the sea level has risen, the soil has subsided, and the climate has grown warmer. These trends are continuing. In the spatial planning of our country, we must factor in the occurrence of more severe downpours. Furthermore, summers may become drier, jeopardising the freshwater supply. Delta Programme 2011 contained short-term measures to bring the safety of our delta up to par. The measures were scheduled under programmes such as Room for the River, Meuse Projects, dyke improvements, and the reinforcement of weak links along the coast. Choices for the future were prepared. Flexibility is a key element in the choice of measures. The measures outlined in Delta Programme 2011 foster the realisation of the policy set down in the National Water Plan (2009-2015).
In the run-up to the first Delta Program
In 2007, the Cabinet appointed a Committee chaired by former Minister Cees Veerman. In 2008, this Delta Committee produced recommendations regarding ways to improve our country’s flood protection and keep our freshwater supply up to par in the century ahead. The Delta Committee has submitted twelve recommendations, pertaining to issues such as the safety standards for Dutch dykes; construction in flood-prone areas; and the administrative, organisational, and financial aspects of flood protection measures. The full recommendations of the Delta Committee are contained in its report, Working with Water Together.