Research into Fresh Water (2022-2027)

The 2018 drought demonstrated the importance of good freshwater supplies in the Netherlands. Under the auspices of the Freshwater Delta Programme, various parties are looking at what is needed to maintain the level of freshwater supplies through to 2050. Preparations for the future after 2015 are also important. In 2021, the studies resulted in measures for the second phase: the 2022-2027 Freshwater Delta Plan. 

Extensive knowledge and experience have already been acquired in the previous phases of the Delta Programme. Examples include the clarification of the freshwater agenda and determining the effectiveness/cost-effectiveness of measures. The results of the studies can be found here. An overview of more recent research, some of which is continuing in the Freshwater Delta Programme Phase II (2022-2027), can be found here. 

Exploratory system analysis of the IJsselmeer area

Deltares conducted an Exploratory system analysis of the IJsselmeer area on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. This analysis describes how the water system works, and the developments and challenges, as well as possible solutions and action perspectives. It is based on the available knowledge. The report describes how the IJsselmeer area works on the basis of three crucial functions for Dutch society: 

  1. basin storage to protect the hinterland from flooding; 
  2. buffers for the freshwater supplies for the Northern Netherlands; 
  3. robust aquatic/semi-aquatic ecosystem for nature networks in and around the Netherlands. 

In this report, you can read about matters such as the consequences of climate change, sea level rise, growing water demand and sometimes low water discharges in the IJssel river, such as more frequent and larger fluctuations in water levels.  

The report includes an infographic to visualise the water system. It shows the main functions and the relationships between them.   

Water profile

The 2018 drought did not result in significant damage for industry. However, there were difficulties in several locations. Communications and information are key factors in terms of mitigating damage in the future. The Drought Policy Platform therefore recommended developing the ‘Water Profile’ tool. The aim of the Water Profile is to make information about industrial water use more accessible and therefore to improve the quality of information and decision-making. The final report and associated documents can be downloaded here.  

Stress test for the Freshwater Delta Programme Phase II

A stress test was conducted in the IJsselmeer area with the aim of identifying which freshwater bottlenecks will remain once the measures of the Freshwater Delta Plan Phase 2 have been implemented. The stress test took into account new knowledge about lower discharges in the IJssel river, increasing water demand for water level management, and increased flushing demand to counter salt intrusion in the IJsselmeer. The stress test showed that there was increasing pressure on buffers in the IJsselmeer and Markermeer lakes. In the IJsselmeer area and the Western Netherlands, more water is also needed to combat land subsidence and peat oxidation. In dry periods, this results in additional water shortages. 

The effect of underwater drainage and passive level rise in peatland areas on bottlenecks in freshwater supplies

Raising water levels in peatland areas is an important measure for the achievement of climate objectives. It requires more water from the surface water system. That additional demand comes at the expense of other water users; in dry summers, therefore, water is not always available for the peatland areas. Deltares investigated the implications of raising water levels in peatland areas on a large scale for freshwater supplies. 

Research into water shortages in sandy areas in the Southern, Central and Eastern Netherlands

Since early 2019, several governments and stakeholder organisations have been working with knowledge institutes and consultancies on the study of water shortages. This report is a part of that initiative. The research is an analysis of the extent of water shortages, the effects of human interventions and the impact on nature and agriculture. The researchers are also looking at the effectiveness of possible measures. Structural measures are needed to mitigate the effects of water shortages on agriculture, nature and the water system. Read the executive summary or the full report. 

Impact modules in the Freshwater Delta Programme

Five impact modules have been developed for the purposes of making assessments on an economic basis. The modules formulate the impact of water shortages and freshwater measures on hydrology as an economic impact on society. The modules link up in technical terms with the National Water Model, which calculates current and future drought risk, and the benefits of freshwater measures. 

Resilient in a changing world

The objective of the Freshwater Delta Programme is to be resilient to freshwater shortages by 2050. The definition of ‘resilience’ varies considerably depending upon the region and water-dependent sector. The transition consultancy DRIFT conducted an exploratory study in late 2021 to further clarify this concept. In the context of the Delta Programme, they identified three types of ‘resilient capacity’ that must be addressed in a coordinated way: robust capacity (absorbing shocks in the short term), adaptive capacity (coping with recurrent stress in the medium term) and transformative capacity (preparing for uncertain impacts in the long term). A two-year process was launched in 2022 to formulate the goal of the Freshwater Delta Programme in more concrete terms. This process will draw on the principles of Water and Soil as Leading Factors. In addition, there are numerous overlaps with the National Programme for Rural Areas (NPLG). The NPLG grants a central role to the coordinated implementation of agendas for nature, water and climate, with a perspective for agriculture. This results in a large package of measures that focus, for example, on restoring brooks and brook valleys, and improving the conditions in Natura 2000 areas.   

Exploration of promising measures for water availability in the Meuse

This report describes the results of a more in-depth approach to the measures identified in the context of improving water availability in the Meuse. This list of measures was compiled in a series of meetings of the Meuse Pilot working group in which all water management authorities and relevant stakeholders were represented. 

Updated bottleneck analysis for the Freshwater Delta Programme phase II

This report illustrates current and potential constraints in the freshwater supplies in the Netherlands on the basis of the most recent calculations with the National Water Model (‘Basisprognoses2018’). This involved making an analysis of five regions to determine how water demand and shortages may develop in the future given the impacts of climate change and socio-economic developments. The analysis was later expanded to include the hydrological effects of Paris measures, looking through to the year 2100. The results have been described in this paper