Flood risk management

Much of the Netherlands is situated below sea level. In addition, our country is criss-crossed by major rivers. The Netherlands is therefore vulnerable to flooding. As a result of climate change and sea level rise, we will see higher water levels more often. The high water in Limburg in July 2021 made it clear once again that an unremitting focus on flood risk management is crucial in the Netherlands. In order to meet the targets for flood risk management by 2050, the Netherlands must make haste. 

Without flood defences such as our dikes, dunes and storm surge barriers, sixty percent of the Netherlands would be regularly inundated. That area is home to approximately nine million people and this is where approximately seventy percent of the Gross National Product is earned. So sound flood risk management is extremely important. 

National Water Programme, Sand Decision and Delta Plan

Flood risk management is one of the three themes in the Delta Programme. The Delta Decision for Flood Risk Management and the area-specific preferred strategies from the 2015 Delta Programme have been adopted in the  2016-2021 National Water Plan. The Sand decision complements the Delta Decisions. It describes how the Netherlands can use sand for natural protection against flooding from the sea. The 2022-2027 National Water Programme is the successor to the National Water Plan and it constitutes the framework for national water and management plans in the Netherlands. 

The Delta Plan for Flood Risk Management describes concrete measures for the implementation of the policy. The Flood Protection Programme (HWBP) is important for the implementation of the Delta Decision. In this multi-year implementation programme, the water authorities and Rijkswaterstaat are working on dike upgrades in a strong alliance. 

Risk approach

Since the publication of the Delta Programme and Delta Decisions in 2015, policy for flood risk management has made the switch to a ‘risk approach’. This links the level of protection to both the probability of flooding and the consequences. The approach allows the arrangements for flood risk management to be more efficient and effective. The risk approach and the new standards associated with it have been included in the Water Act since 2017. 

An animated film about the risk approach can be found here