Amsterdam-Rijn Canal/North Sea Canal area

The Amsterdam-Rijn Canal/North Sea Canal water system (ARK-NZK) plays a major part in the freshwater supply and in the reduction of waterlogging in the western part of the Netherlands. In this busy area, home to more than 4 million people, the consequences of climate change are already manifest: we are experiencing extremely dry summers but also periods of waterlogging. And this in a region of major (economic) value, encompassing the Amsterdam and Utrecht metropolitan areas, accommodating valuable infrastructure, and characterised by intensive land use, such as Schiphol Airport, the seaports, shipping, and the urban areas.

Any slight rise in water level will already cause waterlogging here. However, water shortages also cause damage, e.g., dehydration and salinisation, issues that negatively impact the agriculture sector and nature, jeopardise the drinking water supply, and compromise the appeal of rural areas. Furthermore, developments in agriculture, urban planning, and nature have a major impact on the water system.

Taskings

The area is already faced with a considerable water tasking (i.e., combating waterlogging, salinisation, and drought), which is only exacerbated by climate change, by sea level rise, and by spatial and socio-economic developments. The key question is how we can keep our feet dry and ensure a sufficient supply of fresh water, now and in one hundred years’ time. A huge challenge, which we cannot manage by constructing new pumping stations only. We also need to reduce regional functions’ dependency on the water system and to plan new urbanisation areas in a climate-adaptive manner. In this respect, the preconditions for water management will become increasingly directive in terms of spatial planning. In order to continue to live and work safely in this area, we need to look far ahead and anticipate these developments. 

A new approach

For that reason, the water management bodies and the provincial authorities have launched a process to render the western part of the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient: Future-proof Amsterdam-Rijn Canal/North Sea Canal Water System (TB process). However, the water authorities cannot do this alone! We all need to adapt: government bodies, businesses, and residents alike. 

The TB process is aimed at enhancing the resilience of the entire water system, in interconnection with the regional functions and spatial developments. To this end, measures to combat waterlogging, salinisation, and drought and spatial adaptation measures are being addressed in an interconnected manner, tying in with spatial planning, water quality, ecology, and energy. The government bodies are interconnecting the taskings involved – from the local to the national levels – and are seeking solutions in close collaboration with the other stakeholders.  

Future-proof Amsterdam-Rijn Canal/North Sea Canal Water System  

The TB process is working on long-term choices that need to be addressed in the near future and call for short-term decisions. In the pursuit of integrated and effective measures, the programme partners are collaborating closely, looking beyond the boundaries of their own territories, and actively reaching out to the partners involved in spatial developments and to the parties using the water system. 

The TB process is providing insight into the issues, indicating the limits of the water system, and mapping out promising measures. Several routes can be taken to prepare the area for coping with the effects of future spatial-economic developments and of climate change, depending on the ambitions to be selected. A so-called roadmap visualises decisions regarding a future-proof water system and strategic defining moments for the structure of the spatial system. Administrators and other decision-makers can use the roadmap as a tool to generate appropriate information in the purview of decisions to be made, in order for them to take optimum comprehensive decisions and make the right investments for both the short term and the long term. Thus, the TB process is fostering a safe and healthy living environment for every resident of this dynamic part of the Netherlands!