Delta Programme 2022

The taskings ensuing from climate change are increasing: we are faced with increasingly more extreme weather, involving torrential rain, heat and drought; we must factor in an accelerated rise in sea level, changing river discharges, and continuing soil subsidence. The national Delta Programme sets out how the Netherlands is safeguarding proper flood protection, the availability of fresh water, and spatial adaptation. Delta Programme 2022 reports on the progress made in the period 2020-2021 and presents the measures scheduled for the years ahead. 

More directive role for water

A key conclusion is that water-related challenges must play more of a directive role in the spatial planning of the Netherlands, for example in plans pertaining to house construction, energy provision, and infrastructure. That is the only way to render the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient. The allocation of functions to an area must take account of water availability, whilst the impact of flooding, waterlogging, heat, and drought must be taken into account in new housing developments. By combining the main societal taskings (such as the housing shortage and the agricultural transition), we can future-proof the Netherlands. 

Flood protection programma

The Flood Protection Programme sets out the dyke improvements required to have the primary flood defences meet the statutory protection level by 2050. The Programme is now gaining momentum. Expectations are that by 2022, improvement projects for more than 600 kilometres of primary flood defences will be in preparation or in progress. Based on an initial estimate, a total of 1,300 kilometres of dykes will need to be improved by 2050. All the primary flood defences are currently being assessed. By 2023, we will know the exact scope of the required dyke improvements.

Sea Level Rise

In the long run, the potential acceleration in sea level rise will have a major impact on the flood protection tasking and the freshwater supply. In the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme, the Delta Programme partners have embarked on analyses of the tenability and flexibility of the existing regional strategies. Area-specific studies are exploring the consequences of an extreme rise in sea level; short-term and long-term options; and the potential interaction with the investment agendas relating to sustainable energy, housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and nature. 

Integrated River Management Programme

Under this programme, the central government and regional governments are working on an integrated perspective of the area around the major rivers. Several building blocks were completed in 2021. This year, the parties will be elaborating promising alternatives for riverbed situation and discharge capacities. The preferential alternative will be established by 2023.  

Progress per theme

Flood risk management

New standards

Primary flood defences (dykes, dams, storm surge barriers, and dunes) protect the Netherlands against flooding from the sea, the major rivers, and the large lakes. By 2050, all the primary flood defences in the Netherlands are required to meet the new standards. The local waterauthorities and Rijkswaterstaat are now mapping out which flood defence systems need improvement. Their assessments need to be completed by 2022. By no later than 31 December 2023, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management will inform the House of Representatives on the outcomes. 

Another thirty years

Achieving the goal of meeting the new standards by 2050 will require the completion of an annual average of approx. 50 kilometres of dyke improvements between now and 2050. Due to the long preparations, progress in the first few years will be rather slow; after that, the pace will pick up. The schedule for the period 2021-2032 features: 

  • The improvement of 698 kilometres of dykes;
  • The improvement of 171 engineering structures under the Flood Protection Programme.

IJsselmeer Closure Damn (Afsluitdijk)

One of the more comprehensive dyke improvements involves the IJsselmeer Closure Dam. In addition to its improvement over a stretch of more than thirty kilometres, this project comprises the construction of two pumping stations and two guard locks; and the construction of an opening in the dam to accommodate a fish migration river. These components are scheduled to be completed by no later than 2023. Two other components of the project have suffered some delay: the construction of new sluices and the renovation of the existing sluices. This work is expected to be completed by 2025. 

Spatial quality

In 2020, the extent to which sustainability and spatial quality have been embedded in dyke improvement projects was monitored for the first time. Nearly all the projects were found to have accommodated these aspects. Wide differences can be observed, however, in the manner in which and the degree to which they are factored in. The Sustainability and Spatial Quality Programme Strategy1, published by the Flood Protection Programme alliance, is aimed at supporting the transition to sustainable, climate-neutral, and at circular dyke improvements through spatial quality. 

Freshwater supply

Order of preference

The freshwater supply must be resilient against prolonged periods of drought, as has once again been demonstrated by the dry summers of 2018 and 2019, and by the dry spring of 2020. In light of the review of the Delta Programme in 2020, an order of preference for regional water management was introduced: taking account of water availability in spatial planning; economising on the use of water; water retention; efficient water distribution; and accepting damage. These points of departure have been set down in the National Environmental Vision (NOVI) and in the draft National Water Programme 2022-2027 (NWP). 


Freshwater supply measures were completed at a wide range of locations in 2020. For example, at the end of 2020, water once more flowed through the Roode Vaart near Zevenbergen. In the purview of the main water system, the Climate-proof Main Water System Freshwater Supply Strategy was drawn up. The Strategy is aimed at more efficient use of Rhine and Meuse water, and tailoring distribution to requirements and measurements in times of shortage.

Additional investments

The Delta Programme parties have drawn up a new set of freshwater investments, intended to climate-proof the freshwater supply from the main water system and the regional water systems. The investments will be used for, e.g., measures to optimise water retention in groundwater and surface water, and for more efficient control mechanisms to distribute fresh water from the main water system across the various parts of the Netherlands in times of drought. The investments involve a sum of 800 million euros over the period 2022-2027. The investments will be funded from the Delta Fund, supplemented by funding from provinces, regional waterauthorities, municipalities, and other parties such as drinking water companies. 

Spatial adaptation

Stress tests, risk dialogues, and implementation agendas

The vast majority of the regional waterauthorities, municipalities, and provinces have conducted stress tests to map out their vulnerabilities to extreme weather. Nearly everywhere, local governments are engaged in risk dialogues with residents, businesses, and organisations that are directly affected by the impact of such vulnerabilities. Furthermore, several governments have set down climate adaptation implementation agendas. These efforts represent the first steps set out in the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. 

Rijkswaterstaat is also working on stress tests and (internal) risk dialogues pertaining to the main water system and the main waterways network. External risk dialogues are scheduled for 2021. Subsequently, Rijkswaterstaat will draw up an implementation agenda. Prorail is engaged in a similar process aimed at the development of a climate adaptation implementation agenda. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is developing an assessment framework for the implementation of climate adaptation in these national networks. 

Incentive Scheme

On 1 January 2021, the Climate Adaptation Incentive Scheme took effect. This scheme focuses on measures to be implemented in the period 2021-2027. Any Working Region (or combination of Working Regions) may submit a proposal. The Ministry uses a formula, based on population count and surface area, to divide the resources across the working regions. The central government will contribute a maximum of 33 per cent. The local and regional governments in each Working Region will co-fund the remaining 67 per cent by mutual agreement. The sum available totals EUR 600 million.