Take extreme weather into consideration better to plan the Netherlands

Take extreme weather resulting from climate change into consideration better to plan the Netherlands. That is one of the recommendations in the Flooding Policy Platform’s first advisory report, which was published today, in response to last summer’s water crisis in the Dutch province of Limburg.

The Policy Platform was established by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to draw lessons from last summer’s floods in Limburg, including lessons for the rest of the Netherlands. The national government, provincial and municipal authorities, water authorities, knowledge institutes and companies looked at a range of topics to see how risks in the areas of flooding and excess water can be mitigated, including in the event of extreme precipitation in other places in the Netherlands. Delta Commissioner Peter Glas:

Events in Limburg demonstrated that weather extremes of this kind, which will become more frequent, push us to the limits of what we can achieve with water management measures. This means that physical vulnerabilities in the subsurface and water must play a more prominent role in the selection of locations for housing and other functions in spatial planning. Not everything is possible everywhere. The idea that citizens and the business sector, working with government authorities, should also take steps themselves must go to a higher level. Every new development has to be climate-proof.

Better preparations for extreme weather

This first advisory report contains recommendations on topics that require improvement in the short term so that the Netherlands will be better prepared for extreme precipitation. It is clear is that the entire Netherlands must take into consideration rainstorms with the intensity seen last summer and that such large amounts of rain can also have a major impact in the rest of the Netherlands. The total of 25 recommendations range from technical applications – for example to monitor and predict precipitation and river discharges better – to calls to grant water a leading role in spatial planning and to respond better to high water in the summer. The report also recommends continuing work to make the regional and main water systems more robust and to seek more cooperation in Europe to improve knowledge and data exchange. That will make it possible to improve flood forecasts for the regional water system, including the brooks.

Raising risk awareness

A major focus of the report is the concern that residents, business and government are not adequately prepared for extreme rainfall. The report therefore recommends that more should be done to raise risk awareness by providing transparent and clear information.

More detailed study required

In recent months, Rijkswaterstaat, the provincial authority and the Limburg water authority have repaired damage in the area so that the water system can now cope with any new surge in the water level. It has become clear that, in the case of many of the recommendations, further exploration is needed to identify concrete improvements in greater detail. Research is therefore continuing on the various specific areas. The Flooding Policy Platform expects to deliver the final advisory report and recommendations by the end of 2022.

Scientific assessment

The recommendations in the first advisory report were drafted in collaboration with representatives of various government authorities, knowledge institutes and business. The Physical Environment Consultative Body (OFL) and the scientific sounding board group provided input and advice for this interim report from the Policy Platform. The OFL represents a wide-ranging group of interest groups and stakeholder organisations. The scientific sounding board group consists of independent advisers from the academic world.