Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden

In the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden – the area around the cities of Rotterdam and Dordrecht – water comes from four directions: the sea, the rivers, the air (precipitation), and the soil (seepage). It is a densely populated area of immense economic significance to the Netherlands. All these factors add to the vulnerability of the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Region. That is why a Preferential Strategy has been drawn up for this area, under the national Delta Programme.  

Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden is an area of extremes: with port activities, urban areas, the Greenports (horticulture), the Green Heart of Holland, and the Biesbosch nature reserve. Economic and spatial development is only possible if its flood risk management, freshwater supply, and climate resilience are up to par, for now and in the future. The Preferential Strategy for the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Region has been drawn up to achieve this goal. The region has been working on the implementation of this strategy since 2014. The Strategy was reviewed in 2020. Its framework is constituted by the three Delta Decisions – on Flood Risk Management, on Freshwater Supply, and on Spatial Adaptation – along with the Delta Decision on the Rhine-Meuse Delta.


A number of dyke sections in the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden area do not meet the current standards. In recent years, a higher protection level has been agreed upon for most of the dykes, because of the increase in population and economic value behind the dykes. Furthermore, near dyke sections that are constructed on peat, subsidence is causing additional issues in terms of safety.

In the longer run, the sea level rise and increasing river discharge ensuing from climate change will add to the flood risk management tasking. After 2050, fundamental choices will need to be made regarding the optimum continued protection of this area. The near future already poses the question as to how the space required to this end can be kept available. Expectations are that prolonged periods of drought will occur more frequently, which will put additional pressure on the freshwater supply in the area. Finally, the region is faced with a spatial adaptation tasking, involving areas such as the floodplains.


Under the Delta Programme for the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Region, the province, municipalities, district water boards, Security Regions, the central government, and the regional business community are collaborating on the implementation of the Preferential Strategy for the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Region.

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