Delta Decision for Fresh Water

More and more dry periods are expected in the future in the Netherlands. They may lead to water shortages in areas such as drinking water supplies, nature, shipping and industry. The aim of the measures in the Freshwater Delta Decision is to make the Netherlands resilient to freshwater shortages by 2050. 

Delta Decision for Fresh Water
National goals for freshwater supplies

Resilience to freshwater shortages is the overarching goal of the five national objectives for freshwater supplies that were established in 2015 in the Delta Programme. Those objectives are:  

  • A healthy and balanced water system 
  • Protecting critical user functions  
  • Using water effectively and economically 
  • Developing knowledge, expertise and innovations in the water domain 
  • Improving the competitive position of water-dependent sectors 

Priority sequence

Measures are needed to make the Netherlands resilient to freshwater shortages. The Delta Programme ties into the priority sequence in the National Environmental Vision (NOVI). The objectives are:  to safeguard water availability and prevent problems with excess water. How? 

  1. By taking water availability into consideration in spatial planning and land use;  
  2. By using water more economically;  
  3. By retaining water and storing it in the soil and buffers;  
  4. By allocating water in intelligent ways;  
  5. By accepting damage/residual damage.  

Developments  2015-2023

In recent years, important steps have been taken in the implementation of the Freshwater Delta Decision, both at the national level and in the freshwater regions. The measures in the 2015-2021 Freshwater Delta Plan have been implemented. In this phase, the national government and regional parties together invested over € 430 million in improving water availability.  

Improving resilience to water shortages 

During the 2018 drought, ‘smart water management’ made it possible to mitigate water shortages and their effects. In December 2019, the Drought Policy Platform delivered its final report ‘The Netherlands more resilient to drought’. The conclusion: a change is needed to make the Netherlands more resilient to drought. The capacity of the water system to retain water has to improve at all levels. In some areas, this will require changes in land use. 


In recent years, the approach to fresh water and spatial adaptation has become increasingly intertwined, in part due to a joint knowledge agenda. The risk dialogues about the stress tests are also linked to the dialogues about water availability. Limburg and Noord-Brabant established a joint strategy and approach in 2020 in the Climate Adaptation Implementation Programme for Zuid-Holland. 

Bottlenecks in the picture

Government authorities, users and other stakeholders conducted an inventory of current and future bottlenecks in freshwater supplies and the water needs of a range of sectors. The inventory  produced an orchestrated package of measures. Water users are now more aware of possible water shortages and the ways they can use water more sparingly themselves. In recent years, a lot of knowledge and experience have been acquired with the visualisation of the freshwater agenda and determining the effectiveness/cost-effectiveness of measures.  

Plans for 2022-2027

Projects, activities and milestones

The years ahead will be devoted to the implementation of the Freshwater Delta Decision. 

Some milestones during this period include: 

  • The final measures from phase 1 will be completed in 2025. 
  • Work is taking place on the measures for the second phase of the Freshwater Delta Plan. The Freshwater Delta Programme is testing future strategies and measures for the period after 2027 so that they will be resilient until at least 2050. 
  • The water availability process will continue in the years to come.
  • The Climate-Resilient Freshwater Supplies in the Main Water System will be further elaborated step by step and collaboration with the Delta Programme for Spatial Adaptation will be further intensified. 
  • The Delta Programme is formulating the freshwater objectives for the next period (2028-2033) in more concrete terms and amending them on the basis of regional observations. They will be included in the ongoing process for the 2026 periodical evaluation of the Delta Decision. 

Knowledge and research

Knowledge about fresh water will be kept up-to-date with the knowledge agendas of the Delta Programme and the Freshwater Delta Programme. The Freshwater knowledge agenda will be updated every year. The results of studies and pilot projects are shared at knowledge days and during national and regional presentations. 

The Sea Level Rise Knowledge Programme presents the implications of the various scenarios for sea level rise with regard to freshwater availability and land use (for agriculture and nature, for example).