Unique approach of the national Delta Programme

Climate change entails uncertainties. We do not know exactly what the Netherlands will look like in the future. Our country is prepared for various scenarios. The government is looking far ahead and is implementing additional measures where such are required. Not all the measures have been set down for the next fifty to one hundred years; there is also room for new solutions. This approach is referred to as adaptive delta management: the government is taking the right steps at exactly the right time. Moving along with the developments where possible, adjusting course when required.

A case in point:
Sluices, weirs, and storm surge barriers (also known as “engineering structures”) go out of date, because of wear and tear, or because they fail to keep up with technological advancements. All the engineering structures have now been assessed to determine when they will be due for replacement. The government is also taking account of new developments in the field of sluices and storm surge barriers. Linking such information will save time, effort, and money. Thus, the government aims to prevent situations in which a sluice is patched up, whilst ten years later, it still needs to be replaced by, e.g., a pump.

Monitoring, Analysing, Acting

The national Delta Programme partners follow the “Monitoring, Analysing, Acting” method. This method involves several questions:

  • Is the Delta Programme on schedule? 
  • Is everything proceeding as planned? Are the goals being achieved?
  • Are there any new developments that change things round? 
  • Are multiple goals being addressed concurrently? 
  • Are governments, businesses, NGOs, and residents providing input where appropriate?

Fixed rhythm

The Delta Programme answers the above questions in a fixed rhythm. Every year, during the State Opening of Parliament in September, the Delta Programme Commissioner reports on the implementation of the Delta Plans. He presents concrete proposals and measures for the years ahead. 

Six-year review

However, the Delta Programme is also looking farther ahead because the world around us is changing and new insights develop. The impact of measures is becoming increasingly manifest and more knowledge is being amassed regarding climate change. That is why the Delta Decisions and regional strategies are reviewed every six years. Is the Delta Programme on schedule? Or does its course need adjusting? And if so, how? Delta Programme 2021 sets out the results of the first review, in the form of amended Delta Decisions and Preferential Strategies. The results of the next review will be accommodated in Delta Programme 2027.


A special Signal Group monitors whether new (scientific) insights dictate adjustment of the Delta Programme. The Signal Group consists of representatives of bodies such as the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), and Statistics Netherlands (CBS). In 2019, the Signal Group indicated that the sea level might be rising at an accelerated pace. The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management subsequently commissioned the development of the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme . This programme is intended to gather more knowledge on the probability and impact of flooding.

Central and regional governments joining forces

The water in the Netherlands belongs to all of us. That is why the central and regional governments are collectively pursuing a higher national goal: keeping the Netherlands physically safe and liveable. District water boards, municipalities, provinces, Ministries, and Rijkswaterstaat (the executive branch of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management) have partnered up under the Delta Programme. Residents and NGOs, such as housing corporations and horticulturists, also regularly contribute ideas on the measures to be taken.