What is the Delta Programme?

The government protects the Netherlands, now and in the future, against flooding and ensures there is enough fresh water. In addition, the government is working to make our country climate-resilient and water-robust. The Delta Programme describes how the government does this.

The national government, provincial and municipal authorities, water authorities, Rijkswaterstaat and a range of stakeholder organisations are working on the Delta Programme together, led by the Delta Commissioner. The Delta Commissioner is the independent government commissioner for the Delta Programme.

More rain, rising sea levels, higher temperatures

After the disastrous floods in 1953, the government took steps to protect the country better against flooding. Agreements were made about the height of the dikes and the management of the coast. However, the circumstances are different at present:

  • Sea levels are rising (possibly faster and faster) and the land is subsiding.
  • The number of torrential rainstorms is increasing and they are becoming more extreme.
  • Temperatures are rising.
  • Things are getting drier.

Floods have a greater impact now than in 1953. More people live in the Netherlands and so floods inflict more casualties. Nearly 60 percent of our country could be flooded, including the largest cities and part of the economic centre. Proper protection against floods from the sea, rivers and lakes is therefore important. 

What is the Delta Programme?

Goal of the Delta Programme

The Netherlands has to be climate-resilient and water-robust by 2050. This means that flood risk management, freshwater supplies and spatial planning must be in order. Only then can our country continue to cope properly with the effects of climate change. 

With knowledge institutes, business and stakeholder organisations, the government is working on the delta in a new way: 

  • New standards for flood risk management apply. The government looks not only at the probability of flooding but also at the possible consequences (this is known as the risk approach). The extent of the consequences determines the stringency of the standards.
  • A clear picture is emerging of the availability of fresh water for agriculture, industry and nature. The Netherlands is becoming resilient to freshwater shortages.
  • Spatial planning in the Netherlands is becoming more climate-resilient and more water-robust.

The Delta Programme sets out a strategy for the future. How can we protect the Netherlands from flooding and ensure that we have enough fresh water? And how can we ensure that spatial planning is water-robust and climate-resilient? That strategy includes a range of components:

  • The Delta Decisions: are national frameworks that apply throughout the Netherlands.
  • The preferred strategies: provide direction for tailor-made measures for seven areas in the Netherlands. 
  • The Delta Plans: include concrete measures for the implementation of the policy and planning for these measures.
  • The Delta Programme: describes the progress made on the elaboration and implementation of the Delta Decisions, Preferred Strategies and Delta Plans. Proposals for possible changes to the Delta Decisions and Preferred Strategies are also included in the annual Delta Programme, which comes out on Prinsjesdag (the state opening of Parliament in the Netherlands).

The Delta Decisions

  • Delta Decision for Flood Risk Management: for protecting people and the economy and the economy against flooding from the sea, the large rivers, and the large lakes.
  • Delta Decision for Fresh Water: for limiting water shortages and making good use of fresh water.
  • Delta Decision for Spatial Adaptation: for the development of water-robust and climate-resilient areas, both urban and rural.
  • Delta Decision for the Rhine-Meuse Delta: decisions for flood risk management and fresh water in the Rhine-Meuse delta.
  • Delta Decision for the IJsselmeer area: decisions for flood risk management and fresh water in the IJsselmeer area. 

The strategic decision for Sand complements the Delta Decisions. It describes how the sand on the Dutch coast can protect our country in a natural way.

In 2014, representatives of the provincial and municipal authorities, the water authorities and the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment signed the ‘administrative agreement for the Delta Programme’. Under the agreement, the government authorities take the delta decisions and preferred strategies into account in their own plans. The national government has set out the Delta Decisions in the National Water Plan.

The Delta Plans

1.    Delta Plan for Flood Risk Management
2.    Delta Plan for Fresh Water
3.    Delta Plan for Spatial Adaptation

What is the Delta Programme?

Delta Act (since 1 January 2012)

The statutory agreements about the Delta Programme are set out in the ‘Delta Act on Flood Risk Management and Freshwater Supplies’. The Act also includes information about the Delta Fund and a description of the role of the Delta Commissioner.