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Continuing the work on a sustainable and safe delta

A safe and sustainable delta is not a matter of course. Sixty per cent of our country is prone to flooding; flooding from the sea or one of the major rivers ranks among the top five of the most disruptive disasters to our society. Seventeen per cent of our economy is dependent on fresh water. The sea level is rising, the soil is subsiding, and weather extremes are increasing. We want to continue to protect the population and the economic values, that have risen substantially over recent decades. This poses major taskings for the Netherlands in the fields of flood risk management, freshwater availability, and climate-proofing. The relevant measures set down in the Delta Programme are well on schedule. However, additional efforts are required to render the spatial design of the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient in time. This is where the new Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation comes in: this Delta Plan generates additional measures to speed up the process as necessitated by the urgency of this tasking.


top five of the most disruptive disasters to our society.

RIVM, 2016: Nationaal Veiligheidsprofiel 2016 [National Safety Profile 2016], an all-hazard overview of potential disasters and threats that could disrupt our society.

Preface: the Delta Programme up until now

In 2010, the Netherlands embarked on a unique approach to these taskings, under the supervision of the Delta Programme Commissioner: a national strategy with ample scope for and involvement of regional parties (governments, the business community, NGOs, and residents). In 2014, on Prinsjesdag – the state opening of Parliament in September – the Cabinet presented proposals for Delta Decisions and preferential strategies to the House of Representatives: structuring decisions regarding the work on the delta in the decades ahead. By the end of 2014, the central government set the proposals down as policy in the National Water Plan. The umbrella organisations of the provinces, district water boards, and municipalities underscored their commitment to the chosen approach by signing the Administrative Agreement on the Delta Programme, and agreeing to encourage their members to adopt the Delta Decisions and preferential strategies in their own plans. This affords the Netherlands the frameworks and the compass to take timely measures.

An essential element of the Delta Programme is the adaptive delta management concept: looking ahead to the taskings that are facing us, setting down the measures required in concert, and persistently checking whether we are working at the right pace and in the proper direction. This enables us to continue to make progress, while acknowledging the uncertainties regarding climate change and socio-economic trends. An important factor in this respect is the “Monitoring, Analysing, Acting” system developed within the context of the Delta Programme. The adaptive approach underpins both the Delta Decisions and the preferential strategies for the IJsselmeer Region, Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden, the Rhine and Meuse rivers, the Southwest Delta, the Coast, the Wadden Region, and the Elevated Sandy Soils.

In accordance with the Water Act, which has been amended under the Delta Act, the Delta Programme Commissioner annually draws up a proposal for the Delta Programme. This comprises a proposal for the schedule of measures to be implemented under the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management and the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply. The Delta Programme 2018 (DP2018) is the first to comprise a proposal for the new Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation, which is focused on climate-proof and water-resilient spatial planning in our country.


proposal for the schedule of measures to be implemented

Detailed schedule for the first six years, outline schedule for the subsequent twelve years, looking ahead to 2050.

Progress of the work on the delta

A safe and sustainable delta is of fundamental importance to the Netherlands and requires continuous efforts. In recent years, the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management and the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply have ensured a sound basis for the improvement of flood protection and the availability of fresh water. The parties operating within the Delta Programme are staying on track and keeping up the pace in the implementation of the agreed measures in order to tackle the taskings. Even though the horizon is 2050, making headway is urgent: we need to keep up our ability to cope with rising water levels and design the Netherlands in a manner that enables us to make optimum use of valuable freshwater flows, to combat unacceptable waterlogging, and to minimise heat stress in built-up areas. In this respect, it is vital that we look for solutions that serve multiple interests and connect taskings in order to develop feasible and efficient measures. In addition to posing a technological challenge for the Netherlands, this entails a range of social issues that extend into the very heart of our cities. 

Under the adaptive approach, the Delta Programme closely monitors external developments – for example, relating to the climate or socio-economic conditions – that may affect the pace or the direction of the preferential strategies as set down. This enables us to verify whether the Delta Programme is “on track”, or whether there is reason for a change of course by reconsidering targets or measures. Currently, the Delta Programme is well on track. However, new scientific insights provided by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI show that the expected rise in sea level and increased precipitation during peak downpours (frequency and intensity) could occur more rapidly than has been assumed in the Delta Scenarios up until now. The heavy precipitation resulting from clusters of downpours in the south-eastern part of the country during the summer of 2016 ties in with this image. This adds to the urgency of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. Next year, Delta Programme 2019 will map out the potential impact of a more rapidly rising sea level in more concrete terms, in anticipation of the publication of the new KNMI scenarios in 2021. The potential increase in severe downpours will also be examined further.


the expected rise in sea level and increased precipitation during peak downpours (frequency and intensity) could occur more rapidly than has been assumed in the Delta Scenarios up until now.

See Background Document B: Report and findings of the Delta Programme 2018 Signal Group including fact sheets and references.

The Delta Programme 2018 before you shows that the implementation of the Delta Plans is well “on schedule”. The measures envisaged are largely accomplished within the time frame and budget agreed upon. Since 1 January 2017, the new flood risk management standards and the associated instruments have been embedded in law: an important milestone and a precondition for boosting flood protection according to the new standards in the decades ahead. The Netherlands will be safer.

Since the commencement of the Delta Programme, district water boards, municipalities, provinces, and the central government have worked together in an innovative manner, with input from knowledge institutes, NGOs, the business community, and residents. The independent committee that evaluated the Delta Act in 2016 concluded that by adopting this method of working, the Delta Programme is performing “very well, and in large measure in accordance with the high expectations and ambitions of the legislator”. The evaluation committee has identified various points of attention for the period ahead, such as intensifying the integral nature of the measures and the participation of all relevant parties. For that reason, Delta Programme 2018 now also reflects the progress made with respect to these two aspects.

Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation

Waterlogging following severe downpours is a more frequent sight in the Netherlands. The future will see even more frequent extreme precipitation: up to five times more in 2050, and up to ten times more in 2085 (based on the KNMI ’14 climate scenarios). Practical experience has already revealed that such downpours can cause major economic damage. In our country, the so-called supercell (rain, gusts of wind, and hail) in and around Someren caused hundreds of millions of euros of damage in 2016. Heat and drought also cause bigger problems and more damage in the Netherlands. If we refrain from taking steps, damage due to waterlogging, heat, drought, and urban flooding could rise to some 70 billion euros in the period up to 2050. The interim evaluation of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation shows that implementation got off to a good start, yet the current approach fails to sufficiently encourage the parties involved to adopt spatial adaptation as an inseparable component of their policies and implementation efforts with effect from 2020. This prevents us from attaining the goals set down earlier. The evaluation of the Delta Act (Op peil [Up to standard], 1 July 2016) has already demonstrated that as yet, spatial adaptation is largely perceived as noncommittal, while regions and municipalities differ widely in terms of both awareness, and analysis and approach.


The future will see even more frequent extreme precipitation

STOWA, 2015. Nieuwe neerslagstatistieken voor waterbeheer: extreme neerslaggebeurtenissen nemen toe en komen vaker voor. [New precipitation statistics for water management: extreme precipitations are increasing and occuring more frequently.]


the period up to 2050.

Deltares report 1205463-000: Schades door watertekorten en -overschotten in stedelijk gebied [Damage caused by water shortages and excess water in urban areas] (see  https://ruimtelijkeadaptatie.nl/resultaten-dpnh/resultaten-dpnh/).

These developments have induced us to draw up a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation this year, within the context of the Delta Programme. This Delta Plan is aimed at rendering the Netherlands resilient against extreme weather conditions by minimising the impact of drought, heat, waterlogging, and urban flooding. The Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation features a systematic approach with a view to developing climate-proofing measures at the local and regional levels.

In December 2016, the Council of Ministers endorsed the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS) 2016. The NAS covers the full scope of climate adaptation. It is interconnected with the Delta Programme in the sense that a large section of the adaptation tasking – the taskings that ensue from heat, drought, waterlogging, and urban flooding – is substantiated under the Delta Programme. In addition to the adaptation to climate change (climate adaptation), combating climate change (climate mitigation) is of vital importance in order to avoid “fighting a running battle”. Mitigation and adaptation are, in part, communicating vessels. However, even if mitigation proves successful, the effects of climate change will continue to lag for a long time, which is why adaptation remains imperative.

Cyber security and a safe delta

The importance of cyber security must not be underestimated (cf. the advisory report Herna Verhagen prepared at the behest of the Cyber Security Council: “Nederland digitaal droge voeten” [The Netherlands keeping its digital feet dry]). The Netherlands is dependent on many IT systems that control vital processes, including in the fields of flood risk management and freshwater supply. A cyber attack on these systems could result in, e.g., failure of a pumping station, sluice, lock, or storm surge barrier, with potentially serious consequences. For that reason, safeguarding the reliability of such IT and data systems is of crucial importance. The Delta Programme Commissioner has brought this topic to the notice of the water managers, recommending that they press ahead with the protection of their crucial IT systems against cyber-related threats, and raise the protection level of such systems. Many efforts are already under way. However, cyber security is a battle that requires continuous shifting, awareness, and alertness, as illustrated by the worldwide issues arising after the Wannacry hostage software attack in May 2017.

Continuing the work on a safe and sustainable delta

Recent insights into climate change are rendering timely implementation of the Delta Programme even more urgent, and require additional efforts in some areas. The expected weather changes appear to manifest themselves more rapidly than was originally assumed. This calls for persistent alertness to new developments, the thorough development and exchange of knowledge, and a reliable and sound financial basis to keep the implementation on schedule. A sustainable use of our delta requires efforts on the part of and close collaboration between (and within) all the parties concerned. Not just on the part of governments, but also on the part of residents and businesses. This extends to all the taskings covered by the Delta Programme: flood risk management, freshwater supply, and climate-proofing the Netherlands. 

Smart measures and smart connections are needed to be prepared in good time for future taskings, using the budget available. For that reason, the Delta Programme continues to encourage innovations, e.g., through the Top Sector Water, and expand expertise through the National Water and Climate Knowledge and Innovation Programme (NKWK). Furthermore, the taskings covered by the Delta Programme will need to be linked to the other major challenges and ambitions facing the Netherlands, such as the energy transition and the transition to a circular economy. Thus we keep working on a safe and sustainable delta, in an efficient manner. From an international perspective, the Netherlands is a pioneer in this field.

  1. Cover letter and Delta Programme Commissioner’s recommendations
  2. Introductory summary
    1. Continuing the work on a sustainable and safe delta
  3. Part I National level
  4. Progress of the Delta Programme
    1. Progress based on Monitoring, Analysing, Acting
    2. General picture of the progress
      1. On schedule
      2. On track
      3. Integrated approach
      4. Participation
      5. Effectiveness of the regions
    3. Progress in flood risk management
    4. Progress in spatial adaptation
    5. Progress in freshwater supply
    6. Embedding, knowledge and innovation, international collaboration
      1. Embedding
      2. Knowledge
      3. Innovation
      4. International efforts
  5. Delta Fund
    1. Developments in the Delta Fund
    2. Resources from other partners
    3. The financial taskings of the Delta Programme
    4. Financial security of the Delta Programme
  6. Part II Regions
  7. Progress per region
    1. IJsselmeer Region/freshwater supply region IJsselmeer Region
    2. Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden/West-Netherlands freshwater supply region
    3. Rhine/ Area around the major rivers freshwater supply region
    4. Meuse
    5. Southwest Delta/Southwest Delta freshwater supply region
    6. The Coast
    7. Wadden Region
    8. Elevated Sandy Soils South and East
  8. Part III Delta Plans
  9. Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management
    1. Implementation programmes
      1. Flood Protection Programme
      2. Second Flood Protection Programme
      3. Room for the River
      4. Meuse Projects
      5. WaalWeelde
      6. IJsselmeer Closure Dam
      7. Repair of Oosterschelde and Westerschelde stone claddings - Zeeland foreland deposits
    2. River widening in interconnection with dyke improvement
    3. Studies ensuing from knowledge agenda and in regions
  10. Map Flood risk management measures
  11. Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply
    1. Measures to ensure the availability of freshwater in the Netherlands
  12. Map Freshwater supply measures
  13. Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation
    1. Introduction
      1. Justification
      2. Aim and state of affairs of the Delta Plan
      3. Collective realisation
    2. Context
    3. “Analysis, Ambition, Action” – state of affairs
      1. Waterlogging
      2. Heat stress
      3. Drought
      4. Consequences of urban flooding
      5. Current approach
    4. Our intentions: expediting and intensifying
      1. Vision: from the present to 2050
      2. Ambition and strategy
      3. Interim goals
      4. Nationwide governance framework regarding spatial adaptation
      5. Funding
    5. Appendix 1. Action programme
    6. Appendix 2. Outcomes of regional meetings and round table discussions
  14. List of Background Documents
    1. Background documents
  15. Colophon
    1. Colophon content Delta Programme 2018
  16. How to use Delta Programme 2018