Sizeable investment in Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply

At the State Opening of Parliament (Prinsjesdag), Minister Barbara Visser of Infrastructure and Water Management announced that she will be allocating an additional 100 million Delta Fund euros to the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply for the period 2022-2027, on top of the 150 million euros that had already been set aside. The district water boards, municipalities, and provinces will jointly be earmarking 540 million euros for new measures to ensure a sufficient supply of fresh water for drinking water, agriculture, nature, and industry. The total of nearly 800 million euros has doubled the freshwater supply measures budget vis-à-vis the previous period.

Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas is pleased about the additional impetus to freshwater supply measures: ‘The climate is changing: wet is becoming wetter, dry is becoming drier. It is good that over the next six years, we will be able to invest a substantial sum in our resilience against freshwater shortages, by initiating projects to improve water retention and storage, and to enable its efficient distribution across the nation.’ 

Drought and low water levels

As a result of climate change, the Netherlands will be faced with prolonged periods of drought and low river water levels. The supply of fresh water is not always sufficient to meet the demand. This became manifest during the prolonged periods of drought in 2018, 2019, and the spring of 2020. The Freshwater Supply Delta Programme sets out several measures to achieve drought resilience by 2050. The measures to be implemented by the central government and the regional authorities in the second phase of this Delta Programme are focused on, e.g., improving the freshwater supply from the rivers Rhine and Meuse by constructing new transfer routes (ditches and canals). The measures scheduled for the elevated sandy soils involve, e.g., having brooklets meander and the use of weirs in the purview of water retention. With respect to Lake IJsselmeer – our country’s rain barrel – measures will be taken to combat salt intrusion at the locks in the IJsselmeer Closure Dam.

Furthermore, studies are being conducted to explore whether and how other water sources – such as purified sewage water or brackish groundwater – can be used more efficiently, and in Garmerwolde a project is under way involving reuse of purified wastewater to provide the industry and data centres in the Eemshaven seaport with fresh water.

Measures alone will not suffice

The above measures alone will not suffice to render our country resilient against future drought. A future-proof freshwater supply also requires that water availability is taken into account in spatial planning and land use, for example, in housing and infrastructure plans. This is the only way to render the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient.