Spatial Adaptation

An unforeseen flood would cause major damage to many homes, companies and infrastructure. Hospitals and power stations are also vulnerable to the impact of a flood. Climate change increases the probability of flooding, pluvial flooding during extreme peak rainfall, and sustained drought and/or heat stress in cities.

Experience gained in recent decades has already raised our awareness of the necessity to pay more attention to “living with water” in the design of our living environment. Climate change calls for a shift in mindset: climate-proof and water-resilient design must become a matter of course in spatial (re)developments in the Netherlands.


Climate-proof and water-resilient

The core of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation is to have the Netherlands designed in a climate-proof and water-resilient manner by 2050. The government authorities will ensure that damage ensuing from heat stress, pluvial flooding, drought, and floods will be kept to a minimum. This aim will be taken into account in the construction of new residential areas and business parks, the renovation of the existing built environment, sewer replacements, and road maintenance. Climate scenarios will be used to that end. Thus, we also prevent the need for increasingly strict standards regarding flood defence systems.

In close collaboration with the private sector and NGOs, the authorities will proceed in three steps:

  1. “Analysis”: analysing the impact of climate change for the various functions in an area in the period up to 2050 (looking ahead to 2100);
  2. “Ambition”: setting concrete goals for improving water-resilience and climate-proofing in the period up to 2050, and formulating an appropriate strategy to achieve these goals;
  3. “Action”: setting down the goals and the strategy in, for example, policy plans, legislation, regulations and programmes pertaining to implementation, management and “major” maintenance.

The central government, municipal authorities, provinces and district water boards conduct an annual survey to gauge the progress made. The surveys conducted in 2015 (benchmark) and 2016 have revealed that all the government authorities have set to work on the topics; the district water boards appear to have made the most headway. All the parties are aware of the impact of climate change in terms of pluvial flooding, flood risk management and drought. Heat stress appears to be of lesser concern.

Proper spatial adaptation requires efforts on the part of all the parties concerned. The Spatial Adaptation Incentive Programme encourages such efforts by providing (financial) support to impact projects, an advisory team, living labs, a City Deal, and the knowledge portal featuring information and tools. The Spatial Adaptation Guidelines constitute the basis for this portal. Other features are the Climate Impact Atlas, a stress test, and an overview of adaptation projects in actual practice.

One of the impact projects is Land van Cuijck. Local authorities have signed a declaration of intent to resolve issues such as pluvial flooding and heat stress. Other regions are also expending concerted efforts aimed at climate-proofing.

Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation

Supplementary to the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management and the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply, a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation will be drawn up with effect from Delta Programme 2018. This will set out how the parties involved intend jointly to further the aims and transition tasking of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation, and what mix of tools and measures they will deploy to that end.

Vital and vulnerable functions

The central government ensures that national vital and vulnerable functions will be more resistant to flooding by no later than 2050. Vital and vulnerable functions are, for example, the energy supply (electricity, gas, oil), telecom and IT facilities (public network and emergency communication), the wastewater chain, the supply of drinking water, healthcare (such as hospitals), pumping stations and sluices, road transport, chemical companies and laboratories that work with pathogens.

The Delta Programme focuses special attention on these functions, as flooding may cause the failure of essential facilities and the release of harmful substances. In addition to the risk of casualties, flooding could also entail major economic loss, if areas were temporarily unfit for habitation or if key companies were inoperative for a prolonged period of time.

The approach to this issue is also based on the “Analysis, Ambition, Action” steps.

  1. Analysis: in 2015, together with the business community, the Ministries set down in detail how vulnerable the functions are. Subsequently, they are determining how they will reduce the vulnerability of each sector, with concrete steps and a timetable;
  2. Ambition: before 2020, the Ministries will have set down agreements in their policies and they will have arranged how they will monitor the efforts initiated by the sectors in this regard;
  3. Action: before 2050 – and as much earlier as possible – the sectors will take the necessary measures. Every year, the House of Representatives will receive an overview of the progress made as part of the annual Delta Programme.

Virtually all the national vital and vulnerable functions have completed the “Analysis” step and are embarking on “Ambition”, utilising experience gained in areas such as Botlek and Westpoort Amsterdam. In Westpoort, the city of Amsterdam and Waternet are working together on an adaptation strategy for vital and vulnerable infrastructure.

The second progress report on the Approach to National Vital and Vulnerable Functions contains a comprehensive account of the progress made with respect to agreements on vital and vulnerable functions.

Delta Programme 2017

To view the progress made with respect to this topic, click here: Spatial Adaptation in Delta Programme 2017.