The government has set up the Delta Programme to prepare our country for the impact of climate change. The Rhine needs to be able to discharge increasingly large volumes of water. In order to minimise the risk of flooding, rivers are being given more room and dykes are being improved.
The areas around the major rivers currently have the highest flood risk in the Netherlands. A flood could cause large numbers of casualties and significant social and economic losses. A higher protection level is therefore needed in virtually the entire rivers region. In 2017, new flood protection standards were introduced, prompted by the need to embed new know-how on flood risk management. Under the new standards, everyone in the Netherlands will enjoy the same minimum level of flood protection by 2050.
Furthermore, higher peak discharges can be expected in the long run, due to climate change, while in the tidal rivers area, the rising sea level is pushing up peak water levels. Climate change could also increase the frequency of very low river water levels. This would cause problems for the shipping sector and would make it difficult to withdraw water from the river for, e.g., drinking water and agricultural use, whilst nature would dehydrate.
Preferential Strategy for the Rivers
The Preferential Strategy (2014) is the strategic roadmap for tackling the issues at play. The Preferential Strategy for the Rhine involves a powerful interaction between dyke improvement and river widening. Examples of river widening include: lowering floodplains, constructing secondary or flood channels, dyke relocation, and the use of retention areas. Dyke improvements are aimed at raising and/or strengthening the dykes in order to have them meet the new flood protection standards.
This map (2016, in Dutch) shows the measures and studies set out in the Preferential Strategy.
The preferential strategy is geared to the characteristics of the river tributaries and seeks to link up with other interventions along the rivers, for example, for the natural environment, water quality or habitation. The Preferential Strategy for the Rhine will be reviewed within the context of the policy choices that are being prepared in the purview of Integrated River Management.
Integrated River Management
Under the Integrated River Management programme, the central government and the regional (water) partners are collaborating on a safe, functional, and attractive Meuse and Rhine area, which is ready for the future.
Climate change is making itself felt and its impact necessitates quick and efficient action. The multitude of taskings and the limited scope for development call for an overall picture and adaptive collaboration. Under the Integrated River Management programme, our current approach – featuring a powerful interaction of dyke improvement and river widening – will expand to the essential comprehensive, area-specific strategy.
Within the programme, we are working in an interconnected and (cost) efficient manner. We are developing individual perspectives for each river and river tributary, and we are addressing taskings relating to flood risk management, water quality, nature development, economic development, the freshwater supply, and smooth and safe shipping routes.
Delta Programme 2020
Read about the progress made in the Rhine region in Delta Programme 2020.