Delta Programme 2020

The tenth Delta Programme (DP2020) was submitted to the House of Representatives on Prinsjesdag – the state opening of Parliament – in September 2019, together with the Delta Fund budget. The tenth Delta Programme (PDF) focuses on the progress of the work that is being carried out on the delta: the (statutory) elaboration and the implementation of the Delta Decisions and the Preferential Strategies.

In 2018, the Netherlands was faced with extreme weather conditions: prolonged drought, heat, and severe downpours. The summer of 2019 beat the national heat record dating back to 1944. At the same time, research showed that in the future, the sea level may be rising at a pace faster than the one underpinning the Delta Scenarios. And the World Economic Forum (WEF) has stated that climate change is posing the largest threat to the world economy. Therefore, it is vitally important for the Netherlands to continue to prepare properly for the impact of climate change: by ensuring proper flood protection, securing a sufficient supply of fresh water, and rendering spatial planning climate-proof and water-resilient.

This tenth Delta Programme shows that the Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies set out in Delta Programme 2015 (DP2015) are still charting the right course. However, the initial steps taken towards the six-year review – which will be completed by 2021 – have demonstrated the need for minor revisions. Furthermore, to stay on the right track, it is crucial that we continue to work on the delta, and to give impetus to the implementation of the measures set out in the Delta Plans on Flood Risk Management, Freshwater Supply, and Spatial Adaptation. The new insights in a potentially accelerating rise in sea level have added to the uncertainties regarding measures beyond 2050. This calls for the exploration of short-term actions that will keep long-term options open. The Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme has been launched to gain a better picture of the rate at which the sea level will be rising beyond 2050.

Progress in the Delta Programme

Delta Programme 2020 demonstrates that the intended measures are progressing as scheduled. The Flood Protection Programme has upped its focus on tackling essential dyke improvements, and the assessments of the primary flood defences are in full swing. The innovations that are being explored under the Flood Protection Programme are already yielding millions of euros in savings for the dyke improvements that have been scheduled. Within the framework of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation, stress tests have been conducted for virtually all the municipalities in order to map out their vulnerabilities to extreme weather. A growing number of government authorities have embarked on risk dialogues and the formulation of implementation agendas. Several measures are being implemented to reduce the Netherlands’ vulnerability to weather extremes. The strategy regarding national vital and vulnerable functions was expanded last year: the vulnerability of such functions is now also being reviewed at the local and regional levels. Along with an additional incentive of 20 million euros to support the implementation of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation (process support, pilot studies, knowledge development, and knowledge sharing), the central government is preparing an amendment to the Water Act in order to set up a temporary incentive scheme enabling the allocation of Delta Fund grants to regional and local governments, earmarked for the implementation of measures to combat waterlogging. Co-funding is a precondition to qualify for such grants.

The drought of 2018 has demonstrated the effectiveness of the measures that have been implemented under the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply. For example, the Small-scale  Water Supply was found to function well, even better than expected. The IJsselmeer water level ordinance – which came into force in June 2018 – has expanded the water buffering capacity. The implementation of the other measures involved in Phase 1 of the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply is progressing largely according to schedule. All the freshwater supply regions and the central government are working on the climate-adaptive measures agreed upon. The drinking water sector is also investing in the resilience of our drinking water supply. Last year’s drought has given impetus to the collaboration with parties working on a climate-adaptive substantiation of the farming and nature taskings; a Climate Adaptation Action Programme is being developed to address these two taskings.

The Freshwater Administrative Platform, the Physical Environment Consultative Body, and the freshwater supply regions have evaluated the experience gained with respect to the period of drought. Based on these insights and recommendations of the Freshwater Administrative Platform, the Delta Programme Commissioner will draw up a proposal, in 2021, for Phase 2 of the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply (2022 up to and including 2027), looking ahead to the long-term taskings.

Recommendations of the Delta Programme Commissioner and Cabinet response

In order to be prepared for increasing waterlogging, drought, and heat, and to mitigate the impact of potential flooding, climate-adaptive and water-resilient construction must become the “new standard”. In the purview of realising this ambition, it is important for governments themselves to set a good example, and to encourage residents and the business community to do their share. The Delta Programme Commissioner calls for additional attention to be paid to the interconnectivity between water and spatial planning in major spatial housing development and energy transition efforts, and requests all the governments to substantiate this in their environmental policies. To this end, the Delta Programme Commissioner has recommended that the Cabinet have the Delta Programme goals and its collective taskings integrated and accommodated in the collaboration agreements with the local and regional governments, which are based on the finalised National Environmental Vision, and to have such goals and taskings elaborated in the intended Environmental Agendas. The Cabinet has adopted this recommendation.


Developments in fields such as the climate, demographics, or the economy may dictate a change of course for the Delta Programme. That is why the Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies set out in Delta Programme 2015 are subjected to a systematic review every six years. The first review process commenced in mid-2018. Next year, it may result in proposals for amendments, to be presented in Delta Programme 2021.

An interim finding of the ongoing review is that the Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies set down in 2014 hold good. Up to 2050, they constitute the proper points of departure for rendering the Netherlands safe, climate-proof, and water-resilient. It seems that in 2021, the review will dictate minor adjustments, which are mainly related to increasing weather extremes. However, after 2050, the taskings may change radically, because at that time, the sea level could be rising at a rate faster than was factored in by Delta Programme 2015. In the years ahead, the change of course that might be required after 2050 will call for a joint fact-finding process in order to develop shared knowledge, garner social commitment, and make collective choices.

Sea level rise

Over the past year, significant steps have been taken towards the development of a Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme. The Netherlands is the safest delta in the world and seeks to remain so in the future. For that reason, the Delta Programme partners are working on this Knowledge Programme, in collaboration with research institutes and representatives of the business community. The goals set for the programme include reducing the uncertainties regarding the developments on Antarctica and the associated rise in sea level; mapping out the extent to which the current Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies are tenable and expandable; and exploring potential action perspectives for the distant future. The Knowledge Programme will run until 2026. The outcomes will be used in the second six-year review of the Delta Programme. This will enable an adaptive response to a potentially accelerated rise in sea level beyond 2050.

Integrated River Management

The authorities in the area around the major rivers are collectively substantiating the integrated approach ambition under the Integrated River Management (IRM) programme, in parallel to the ongoing explorations in the region. The IRM programme regards the river as a single system and pursues an integrated approach to the national and regional taskings, such as flood risk management, navigability, water quality and nature, water availability, spatial and economic development, and spatial adaptation. In recent months, the parties have mapped out the river system taskings. They are now considering which urgent taskings call for immediate attention and which require more research and strategic policy decisions, such as regarding the extent of river widening and riverbed level. In the summer of 2019, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management set down agreements with the administrators of both the Rhine and Meuse Delta Programme Regions and commissioned the launch of the Integrated River Management programme.