Flood risk management

A large part of the Netherlands is situated below sea level. In addition, our country is criss-crossed by major rivers. As a result, the Netherlands is prone to flooding, especially because climate change and the rising sea level will be causing increasingly frequent higher water levels.

Without flood defences, such as dykes and storm surge barriers, sixty per cent of our country would be inundated on a regular basis. These areas accommodate some nine million people and some seventy per cent of our gross national product is earned here. Consequently, adequate flood risk management is vitally important.

National Water Plan, Decision on Sand, and Delta Plan

Flood risk management is one of the three topics covered by the Delta Programme. The Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management and the area-specific Preferential Strategies contained in Delta Programme 2015 have been incorporated into the National Water Plan (NWP) 2016-2021; thus, they have been embedded in policy. The essence of this Decision and the Strategies is to protect residents and the economy against flooding. They are supplemented by the Decision on Sand. This sets out how the Netherlands can utilise sand as a natural way of protecting our country from flooding. The NWP constitutes the framework for the regional water and management plans in the Netherlands.

Actual measures for the implementation of policy are outlined in the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management. With respect to the implementation of the Delta Decision, the Flood Protection Programme plays an important part. In this multi-year implementation programme, dyke improvement is addressed by a strong alliance of Rijkswaterstaat and the district water boards.

Risk-based approach

Since the publication of the Delta Programme and the Delta Decisions in 2015, flood risk management policy has switched to a so-called risk-based approach, i.e., an approach in which the protection level is related to both the probability and the impact of flooding. This approach enables flood risk management to be addressed in a more effective manner. The risk-based approach and the associated new standards have been anchored in the Water Act since 2017.