Flood Risk Management

Some 60 per cent of the Netherlands is prone to flooding. These areas accommodate approx. nine million people, and some 70 per cent of our gross national product is earned here. Consequently, working on flood protection is a continuous necessity in the Netherlands. In 2015, with the Delta Programme and the Delta Decisions, we adopted the risk-based approach in our flood risk management policy: an approach in which protection levels are related to both the probability and the impact of flooding. This approach enables us to address flood protection in a more efficient and effective manner.

Generic topic safery

Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management

The Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management introduced a new approach to the flood protection of residents and the economy. Every individual living behind the dykes or dunes is provided with the same level of protection: the probability of individual mortality as a result of flooding must not exceed 1:100,000 per annum. Higher protection levels apply in areas where flooding may cause major damage (in terms of large numbers of victims, economic loss, and/or vital infrastructure of national significance). These goals have been translated into new standards for the dykes, dunes, and dams protecting our country against flooding from the sea, the major rivers, and the large lakes. The new standards have been anchored in the Water Act, which came into force on 1 January 2017. The aim is for all the flood defence systems to meet the new standards by then.

Would you like to know more about the new flood risk management policy? View a short animated film on the new approach. Also helpful: the booklet Waterveiligheid. Begrippen begrijpen (Flood risk management concepts explained; in Dutch).

New tools and tasking up to 2050

Setting down the new standards does not mean that our work is done. In order to be able to apply the new standards, the central government is developing regulations and instruments – in consultation with the district water boards – with which the managing authorities can assess the safety of the dykes, dunes and dams.

The assessments of the primary flood defence systems are making steady progress: by mid-2019, some 19 per cent had been assessed on the basis of the new standards that came into force on 1 January 2017. The work is thus well on schedule. By 2023, this will yield a national picture of dyke improvement tasking up to 2050.

Dyke sections that do not meet the statutory standards will be tackled in the period leading up to 2050. The measures will be focused on prevention. The required protection level will be achieved by reducing the probability of flooding through robust dykes, dams, dunes, and storm surge barriers, and by creating sufficient room for rivers. Such measures will be carried out under the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management.

The public flood risk management portal (in Dutch) shows the progress made with respect to the round of assessments and to the dyke improvements carried out under the Flood Protection Programme.

The Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management contains diagrams and tables reflecting the progress, scheduling, planning, and phasing of the flood protection projects. Furthermore, the “Monitoring, Analysing, Acting” method employed in this Delta Plan provides information regarding the question of whether its implementation is on schedule.

Integrated River Management Programme

In the Rhine and Meuse area, several major national and regional taskings converge. The taskings incumbent upon the central government involve flood risk management, shipping, ecological water quality, nature, the freshwater supply, and riverbed management. The regional taskings pertain to domains such as nature, leisure activities, the economy, and appealing residential and business climates. Spatial adaptation is another issue requiring attention. Climate change (larger discharge volumes and longer periods of drought) and summer bed erosion are adding to some taskings and generating new taskings.

That is why, in 2018, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management expressed her intention to set up an Integrated River Management (IRM) programme in collaboration with government bodies, the business community, and NGOs in the areas around the major rivers. On 4 July 2019, the Minister set down collective agreements with the administrators of the Rhine and Meuse Delta Programme Regions, and commissioned the launch of the Integrated River Management Programme.

Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management

The Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management sets out all the Delta Programme studies, measures, and provisions aimed at protecting the Netherlands against flooding. The plan contains a detailed schedule for the first six years and an outline schedule for the subsequent twelve years. It also looks ahead to 2050. Most of the measures are funded from the Delta Fund. The Delta Plan is a component of the Delta Programme annually presented by the Delta Programme Commissioner.

Linkage opportunities

Flood risk management efforts are open to an integrated approach at all levels. Linkage with other projects scheduled in the area opens up opportunities for achieving an efficient and cooperative result.

Flood impact reduction through spatial planning (layer 2)

In areas prone to flooding as a result of the failure of primary or regional flood defence systems, spatial planning measures can contain the impact of urban flooding. The tasking involves designing the area in such a manner as to minimise the impact of flooding: containment of damage and casualties, reduction of the recovery time after a flood, and the long-term postponement or prevention of dyke improvements. Such measures are being implemented under the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. 

Disaster control (layer 3)

In 2018, the Water Crises Control in Security Regions (WAVE2020) programme was launched. This programme is compiling the outcomes of the impact analyses and the action perspective strategies pertaining to the individual Security Regions into a single national picture, to underpin a new contingency plan for all the governments to control the impact of a flood. The Water Crises and Floods Management Steering Group has commissioned the WAVE2020 programme, which involves collaboration between the Security Regions, district water boards, Rijkswaterstaat, and the relevant Ministries.

The results of the impact analyses and strategies can also be used for the assessment of layer 2 measures, the substantiation of the Flood Risk Directive, and the municipal climate stress tests.

A water crisis requires administrators to join forces. In such cases, it is important that all the parties know how to get in touch with one another. During a symposium held in April 2019, the administrators involved signed the collective declaration of intent regarding Randstad Flood Disaster Control. The essence of the declaration is that district water boards 1) raise water awareness and factor in water-related opportunities and risks in their work; 2) collaborate on impact analyses and action perspectives in order to ensure maximum efficiency in their response to an (imminent) flood in the Randstad conurbation; and 3) improve the integrality of the coordination between the regional and national strategies for combating flood disasters.

Potential amendment of the Delta Decision

The goal of the Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management is to ensure that by 2050, the primary flood defences will be up to standard. Several underlying goals have meanwhile been attained: the new standards founded on the risk-based approach have been anchored in legislation (2017); the associated Statutory Assessment Tools (WBI2017) have been completed; and the first national round of assessments based on the new standards is underway. The Flood Protection Programme sets out the dyke improvement schedule up to and including 2025.

Other underlying goals have been placed on the agenda for the years ahead. A report on the condition of the primary dykes, based on the outcomes of the national round of assessments, will be presented by the end of 2023. A report on the efficiency and effects of the new flood risk management policy will be presented by the end of 2024. At that time, the need for adjustment of the standards will be assessed as well.

According to the analysis of new developments, currently there is no reason to amend the Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management.

Delta Programme 2020

Read about the progress made with respect to the topic of Flood Risk Management in Delta Programme 2020.