Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply

Expectations are that in the future, the Netherlands will be faced with increasingly frequent periods of drought. These can result in water shortages for sectors such as the drinking water supply, nature, shipping, and industry. The Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply sets out that by 2050, the Netherlands must be resilient against freshwater shortages.

Resilience against freshwater shortages is the overarching goal in the five national freshwater supply targets set down in the Delta Programme.

Order of preference

Rendering the Netherlands resilient against freshwater shortages requires a range of measures. To this end, the Delta Programme is conforming to the order of preference set down in the National Environmental Vision, aimed at ensuring water availability and preventing waterlogging: 

  • Taking account of water availability in spatial planning and land use; 
  • Economising on water consumption; 
  • More efficient water retention, collection, and storage; 
  • More efficient water distribution; 
  • Accepting (residual) damage. 

Milestones in 2015-2021

Over recent years, significant strides have been taken in the implementation of the Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply, at the national level and in the Freshwater Supply Regions. Implementation of the measures set out in the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply 2015-2021 commenced in 2015. In this phase, the central government and regional parties are collectively investing a total sum of more than 430 million euros in the enhancement of water availability. 

Improving drought resilience improved

During the drought of 2018, “smart water management” contributed to reducing the (impact of) water shortages. In December 2019, the Drought Policy Platform produced its final report , “The Netherlands more resilient against drought”. The conclusion is that enhancing the Netherlands’ resilience against drought demands change: the water retention capacity of the water system must be improved at all levels. In some areas, land use must be adapted to water availability.

Integrated nature

Over recent years, the freshwater supply and spatial adaptation strategies have become increasingly intertwined. For example, the risk dialogues on stress tests have been linked to the dialogues on water availability. In 2020, the provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant will be setting down a collective strategy and approach in the South Netherlands Climate Adaptation Implementation Programme.

Bottlenecks mapped out

Authorities, consumers, and other stakeholders have collectively explored current and future bottlenecks in freshwater supply and water demand for various sectors. This has generated an interconnected set of measures and made water consumers aware of potential water shortages and their own options for cutting back on their water consumption.

All in all, over recent years a great deal of knowledge and experience has been amassed in terms of mapping out the freshwater supply tasking and determining the (cost) effectiveness of measures.

Plans for 2022-2027

Projects, activities, and milestones

The next few years will see the roll-out of projects and activities aimed at the realisation of the Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply. These projects and activities are outlined in the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply.

Several milestones will be achieved over this period, such as:

  • The final Phase I measures will be completed by 2024. 

    Delta Programme 2022 sets out the measures scheduled in the second phase of the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply. These will be substantiated in the years ahead.  

  • The Water Availability Process will continue in the years ahead. 

  • The Climate-proof Main Water System Freshwater Supply strategy will be gradually elaborated further in the years ahead. Collaboration with the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation will be intensified.

Expertise and research

Freshwater knowledge is kept up to date via the Delta Programme Knowledge Agenda and the Freshwater Supply Programme knowledge agenda. The Freshwater Knowledge Agenda is updated annually. The outcomes of studies and pilot projects are shared at expertise meetings and through national and regional presentations.

The Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme is mapping out, inter alia, what the different sea level rise scenarios entail in terms of freshwater availability and the use of space (such as for farming and nature).