The sand along the Dutch coast provides natural protection against the sea. Because of the action of wind, waves and currents, sand is continuously lost to the sea. To maintain the protection afforded by the beaches and dunes, Rijkswaterstaat maintains the coast with nourishment operations involving millions of cubic metres of sand taken from the bed of the North Sea. The Sand Decision defines the goals and implementation of these operations.
The principle underlying the Sand Decision is ‘soft where possible, hard where needed’. In other words, the character of the coastline should remain as natural as possible, with dunes and beaches being the basis for coastal protection. To maintain a proper sand balance, even if sea levels rise and violent storms occur more frequently, larger sand nourishment operations may be needed in the future. These operations contribute not only to preserving the coastline but also to local and regional goals for an economically strong and appealing coast.
More knowledge is needed to make sand nourishment more effective and cost-efficient. So learning in practice is an important component of the Sand Decision. That means conducting pilot projects, monitoring and research, and using the results to inform new decisions. That was done until the end of 2020 in the research programme Coastal Genesis 2.0.
All data collected in the research programme have been available for everyone to download since the end of 2019. This means that scientists in the Netherlands and abroad have a wealth of information at their disposal.
The follow-up to Coastal Genesis 2.0 (additional monitoring, research and pilot projects) is part of the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme. The aim is to better anticipate future developments due to sea level rise that will affect the sand nourishment system. At present, sand nourishment amounts to 12 million cubic metres of sand annually; for the time being, that is enough.