Delta Programme 2019

The ninth Delta Programme (DP2019) was submitted to the House of Representatives on Prinsjesdag – the state opening of Parliament – in September 2018, together with the Delta Fund budget. The ninth Delta Programme (PDF) focuses on the progress of the work that is being carried out on the delta: the (statutory) elaboration and the implementation of the Delta Decisions and the Preferential Strategies.

65 years ago, the Netherlands was hit by a disastrous flood in the southwestern part of the country. The memories of those who survived still make a profound impression. They underscore the importance of flood risk management in our country. The fact that in January 2018, we were able to close five storm surge barriers during a severe storm demonstrates that the Netherlands is currently well protected. With the Delta Programme, we are continuing to prepare for the future, because climate change may have a major impact on our low-lying country.

Eight years of Delta Programmes

Since 2010, various government bodies and organisations have joined forces in the Delta Programme in order to work on common goals. Rather than waiting to be hit by another (flood) disaster, we are seeking to prevent disasters, major damage, and problems. To this end, we are pursuing adaptive delta management: looking ahead to the taskings that face us, collectively setting down measures, and continually checking whether we are working at the right speed and in the right direction. Keeping options open and if need be, timely adapting the strategies. We are pursuing adaptive delta management in the purview of flood protection but also to secure our freshwater supply and to climate-proof our living environment.

Concrete results

Significant and concrete results have already been achieved. For example, the new flood protection standards for dykes and dams have been anchored in law; the first dyke improvements according to these standards are being prepared. In 2018, a new ordnance decree was set down for the IJsselmeer region, enabling flexible water level management. This will add significantly to the resilience of the freshwater supply in a large part of the Netherlands. Since 2017, the Delta Programme has comprised a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation, supplementary to the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management and the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply. The governments are thus taking concrete steps to climate-proof the country, in order to be better prepared for waterlogging, drought, heat, and the impact of urban flooding.

Progress outlined: largely well on schedule

The bulk of the measures scheduled is well on schedule.

  • The district water boards and Rijkswaterstaat are keeping up the pace with respect to the dyke improvements scheduled under the Flood Protection Programme. The provinces and municipalities are actively doing their part.
  • The security regions have embarked on mapping out the impact of flooding by conducting impact analyses, and are improving their evacuation plans.
  • Two important freshwater supply measures are making progress: the introduction of a flexible water level in the IJsselmeer region and the expansion of the Climate-proof Water Supply in the central part of the Netherlands. All the regions are working on measures to secure water availability during periods of drought.
  • The majority of the regional governments have embarked on mapping out vulnerabilities to weather extremes. The goal of all municipalities having fully completed a stress test by 2019 is thus within reach, yet still requires significant effort.

Additional attention for specific elements

Several activities call for additional effort:

  • The goal set out in the Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply, viz., water availability agreements in place for all the regions and the main water system, is feasible yet requires an intensification of efforts;
  • Insufficient progress is being made regarding the visualisation of flood impact reduction through spatial planning (layer 2). For this reason, the Delta Programme Steering Group has set up a working group to focus additional attention on this issue. The climate-proofing of vital and vulnerable functions will be given impetus in order to have regional pilots tie in more efficiently with the national strategy.

Integrated river management

With a view to the longer-term substantiation of the interaction between dyke improvement and river widening, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management intends to set up an integrated river management programme, in collaboration with the Delta Programme partners (governments, the business community, and NGOs). To this end, the Minister is developing, together with the Delta Programme partners, an assessment framework for the choices to be made regarding measures in the area around the major rivers. One of the connecting measures in this programme involves river widening. River widening serves many purposes. Targeted river widening investments at specific locations will enable attainment of the flood risk management goals. Furthermore, such investments will contribute to resolving other national (management) taskings such as shipping, as well as area development and other regional taskings.

Sea level rise

Signs can be observed that the sea level is rising more rapidly than has been assumed in the Delta scenarios up until now. A first exploratory study has demonstrated that a potential acceleration in sea level rise will not be noticeable until 2050 at the earliest. If we manage to reduce global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees, as set out in the Paris Agreement, the sea level along the Dutch coast may rise by 1 to 2 metres by 2100. In that case, the flood risk management and freshwater supply taskings will be bigger than has been assumed up to now in the Delta Programme. Up until 2050, as a minimum, the Preferential Strategies will provide a sound basis for keeping our delta liveable and habitable. However, we need to give impetus to further research in order to gain more certainty regarding the impact of a rising sea level. In 2020, we will take stock during the first (six-year) review of the course steered by the Delta Programme. At that time, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI may provide more information on the stability of the signs regarding the rising sea level, also based on the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Housing tasking

In the major housing tasking in the Randstad conurbation, factoring in the changing climate is imperative: new houses must not only be energy-neutral but also climate-adaptive, while the future water tasking must be taken into account in the selection of locations.