Ambition and strategy

We will expedite and intensify the realisation of a water-resilient and climate-proof design by working on seven ambitions:

  1. mapping out vulnerabilities;
  2. conducting a risk dialogue and drawing up a strategy;
  3. drawing up an implementation agenda;
  4. capitalising on linkage opportunities;
  5. promoting and facilitating;
  6. regulating and embedding;
  7. responding to disasters.

The above ambitions have been formulated in concert during the preparation of this Delta Plan, and thus expressly reflect the ambitions of all government authorities involved: municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the central government. In part, the seven ambitions can be substantiated concurrently and the sequence may differ from one location to the next. Any steps that have already been taken constitute the point of departure for the new approach. And at locations at which bottlenecks have already been identified, the parties will take no-regret measures in anticipation of the vulnerabilities analysis and the dialogue. After all, this Delta Plan is intended to boost rather than stem the implementation.

Figure 13

Seven ambitions Mapping out vulnerabilities

How will extreme precipitation, heat, drought, and urban flooding affect our cities, villages, and rural areas? Insight into the vulnerability to weather extremes is the foundation that underpins spatial adaptation. For that reason, by no later than 2019, the aggregate municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the central government (including Rijkswaterstaat) will conduct stress tests, in collaboration with the stakeholders in their area, to map out its vulnerability, insofar as such a test has not yet been conducted. The stress tests will subsequently be repeated every six years. Municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the central government are setting down regional agreements regarding collaboration in these analyses, in order to safeguard uniformity and to capitalise on the expertise available. They will embed these agreements in their policies; in the future, the agreements will be incorporated into the Environmental Visions and Environmental Plans.

The stress tests can be characterised as follows. The stress test:

  • covers an entire area, in both urban and rural environments;
  • targets an area’s vulnerability to waterlogging (caused by severe downpours or prolonged rain), heat stress, drought, and urban flooding;
  • focuses specific attention on vital and vulnerable functions;
  • takes account of other developments that raise an area’s vulnerability (such as soil subsidence and changing groundwater levels).

The central government is taking the lead by developing a “standardised” stress test in 2017 to support this process, in close collaboration with district water boards, municipalities, provinces, knowledge parties such as the Foundation for Applied Water Research STOWA and the RIONED Foundation [umbrella organisation in the field of urban water management and sewer systems], and the providers of the current stress tests. The Cabinet thus follows the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Water, viz. to introduce a standardised stress test for waterlogging, and making such a test mandatory.

The “standardised” stress test comprises several future scenarios, reflecting, e.g., the probability of extreme downpours and extremely hot days. Each stress test features, as a minimum, the rainfall scenarios corresponding to the current waterlogging standards, as well as scenarios for “supra-normative” conditions. In addition to the standard points of departure, the “standardised” stress test will offer sufficient room for local and regional customisation, considering the location-specific issues and requirements. The parties developing the stress test will utilise the experience gained with the existing stress test methods, including those used for the Delta Programme, and the Climate Impact Atlas. They will also use the guidelines for impact analyses of serious waterlogging and urban flooding, an instrument ensuing from the Water and Evacuation project which is carried out by the Security Regions. If need be, the scenarios used in the stress tests will eventually be adapted to new climate insights.

Delta Programme

New Urban Developments and Restructuring Delta Programme, 2014. Guidelines for conducting climate-proofing stress tests.

The use of a standardised methodology has various advantages: it obviates the need for every individual party to re-invent the wheel, it enhances inter-comparability, it facilitates the exchange of experience, and it generates a national picture of the scope of the taskings. The agreement is that with effect from 2018, all the parties will use the “standardised” stress test and the standard scenarios in the analyses yet to be conducted; however, stress tests that have already been scheduled but may not quite be up to standard will nonetheless be performed as planned.

Regular repetition of the stress test should visualise the effect of the measures that have been carried out. In 2018, a study will be conducted to explore what is required to this end, and how the municipalities can utilise digital spatial information in this process. Municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the central government will publish the results of the stress test before 2020 in order to enable local residents and businesses to gain insight into the vulnerability of their areas and the urgency of measures. Conducting a risk dialogue and drawing up a strategy

Once the results of the stress test are available (by no later than 2019), the municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and Rijkswaterstaat will launch a dialogue with all the relevant partners in each region or sub-region (such as housing corporations, grid managers, farmers, nature managers). At locations that have already undergone a stress test, the dialogue will commence earlier. The goal is twofold: to raise awareness of a region’s vulnerability to climate extremes, and subsequently to discuss how concrete measures can reduce this vulnerability. The OECD has also emphasised the need for raising water awareness.

water awareness

OECD, 2014. OECD studies on water. Water governance in the Netherlands: fit for the future?

The dialogues will be conducted at several levels, from neighbourhoods to the central government; all the stakeholders will collectively work on solutions to the tasking that ensues from the stress test. Based on the experience of pioneering regions, a guideline will be drawn up to help conduct such a dialogue. This past year, the Southern Netherlands region already embarked on social dialogues, prompted by the waterlogging that occurred in the summer of 2016. The Foundation for Applied Water Research STOWA, the RIONED Foundation [umbrella organisation in the field of urban water management and sewer systems], and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI can use their expertise and experience in public communication to help develop this guideline.

the waterlogging that occurred in the summer of 2016.

Within the framework of the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS), comprehensive national adaptation dialogues on several themes are being conducted with supra-regional NGOs in order to fine-tune the agenda, the issues, and the courses of action. Agreements ensuing from these national dialogues will be accommodated in the regional dialogues. Wherever relevant, the parties will enter into close collaboration with the team working on the NAS implementation programme. Preparations for the national adaptation dialogues on, e.g., the insurability of climate risks, and heat and health have already commenced. The dialogue on heat and health builds on the initial impetus that the parties have given during the round table discussion on this theme. Preparations for the dialogues on cultural heritage and climate-proof construction in urban areas, and on agriculture have commenced as well. The dialogues will be continued in 2017 and 2018.

The governments are helping to raise awareness through communication at the local, regional, and national levels, focusing on the risks, the individual responsibilities of residents and businesses, and the course of action for all parties concerned.

In each area, the municipalities, district water boards, and provincial authorities will set down the additional efforts they intend to undertake to reduce the vulnerability of the area, how they intend to support residents and businesses in taking their own measures, and what damage will be acceptable for the time being. Strategic choices will be made in this process, if need be, taking account of the interconnectivity in the system (urban/rural areas), synergy with other spatial developments, priorities, and the division of tasks. Wherever relevant, the provinces will incorporate this joint spatial adaptation strategy relating to waterlogging, drought, heat, and urban flooding into the more comprehensive regional NAS climate adaptation strategies. Among other things, the regional climate adaptation strategies contain the spatial consequences of the climate tasking for the design of the physical living environment. These consequences will be accommodated in Environmental Visions, Environmental Plans, and Environmental Programmes.

additional efforts

In supplement to efforts ensuing from the statutory duty of care regarding rainwater and waterlogging standards. Drawing up an implementation agenda

Within three years (by no later than 2020), the governments will have drawn up implementation and investment agendas for their regions, based on the adaptation strategy. These agendas set out the agreements regarding the efforts to be expended by each party, based on the dialogues. Agreements will also be made regarding bottlenecks to be addressed shortly and issues that can wait, issues that require a collective approach, issues that require an individual approach, and measures that will be carried out in interconnection with other taskings (see 4.2.4). This working method does not alter the fact that the parties may take no-regret measures with respect to bottlenecks that have already become manifest, in anticipation of the stress test and the implementation agenda.

With respect to the most urgent bottlenecks, the implementation agenda features a set of preventative measures to be carried out by the parties themselves, and actions to link solutions to other (public and private) efforts. The measures and actions are underpinned by the stress tests and the dialogues. The central government, municipalities, provinces, and district water boards will invest in their own real estate and the social real estate for which they are responsible, such as schools, public grounds, sports facilities, and traffic networks. Spatial adaptation will constitute one of the criteria in tendering procedures.

Methods will be developed to gauge the effectiveness of measures and determine an optimum, cost-effective mix of measures. In addition, it would be advisable jointly to map out the interconnectivity between damage prevention by governments, courses of action for residents and private parties, and coverage of the residual risks by insurance companies and disaster funds. A plan of action to this effect will be submitted to the Spatial Adaptation Steering Group. Capitalising on linkage opportunities

Wherever possible, we want to utilise the synergy with other taskings, by creating work with work. In many cases, particularly in highly dynamic urban areas, “breaking up a street” in the purview of spatial adaptation alone is neither efficient nor effective. In the decades ahead, we will also need to tackle other substantial spatial taskings, such as (major) renovations of buildings, public spaces, greenery, and infrastructure; the energy transition; and the transition to a circular economy. Furthermore, the demand for new urban developments is expected to pick up again. This Delta Plan aims to capitalise on the opportunities for climate-proofing offered by these types of developments. To this end, we are setting side by side and interlinking, wherever possible, the implementation and investment agendas for various taskings in the spatial domain. In addition, synergy between the taskings covered by this Delta Plan and the other Delta Programme taskings (flood risk management and freshwater supply) can be achieved by considering the taskings in an interconnected manner. For example, in many cases, water shortage and waterlogging are two sides of the same coin; solutions to drought sometimes also entail a solution to waterlogging. 

In recent years, several municipalities, district water boards, and central government implementation organisations have gained positive experience with linking spatial adaptation to other investment agendas. A case in point is the Amsterdam Rainproof project. A range of businesses, among which are garden centres, horticulturists, contractors, and project developers, have also linked spatial adaptation to their own activities. With effect from 2018, we will be sharing this experience through the Climate-proof Together Platform (see 4.2.5).

With effect from 2018, the municipalities, district water boards, and NGOs will step up their efforts to link spatial adaptation with regular management and maintenance measures, investment programmes, incentive schemes, or eco system services. For example, a contribution to adaptation constitutes a criterion for awarding grants to green rooftops and green schoolyards. The central government can impose the utilisation of opportunities for synergy as a condition in agreements on co-funding. With effect from 2017, the central government, provinces, municipalities, and district water boards have been committed to linking spatial adaptation to the energy transition and environmental policies. A structural symbiosis between the Delta Plan and the follow-up to the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS) is self-evident.

Yet the interim evaluation of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation has shown that linkage will not always suffice. Larger system changes will occasionally be needed. Furthermore, waiting for linkage opportunities may also entail the risk that no-regret measures will be withheld. Promoting and facilitating

Climate-proofing calls for commitment among a wide range of public and private parties. Spatial adaptation must become an automatic element in the physical efforts being expended in urban and rural areas. In order to expedite such commitment, it is important that we optimise the exchange of the available knowledge, instruments, and experience, to obviate the need for reinventing the wheel and to encourage everyone to do their part. The Delta Plan sets out several instruments to achieve this goal:

  1. A knowledge-sharing platform will be set up (Climate-proof Together Platform). With effect from 2018, this platform will gather information, expertise, and experience, and support the exchange of knowledge among local governments and private professionals working on spatial adaptation at the local and regional levels. The goal is for such parties to provide input, based on their practical experience, in terms of process and content, and regarding the wider application of instruments and solutions developed locally.
  2. The existing Spatial Adaptation Incentive Programme supports parties in the implementation of spatial adaptation by organising theme-based meetings and investing in living labs, pilots, and experiments. This programme will be continued after 2017. A decision on its format and working methods will be made in the autumn of 2017.
  3. The Spatial Adaptation Knowledge Portal is the central portal in the Netherlands where governments, private parties, and NGOs can find information relating to climate-proof and water-resilient spatial planning. This knowledge portal will be expanded further in order to cover the entire scope of climate adaptation in the future.

With respect to knowledge development, we will tie in with the knowledge agendas of the National Water and Climate Knowledge and Innovation Programme (NKWK), the Delta strategies pertaining to water quality and freshwater supply, and the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS). Further agreements will be made with the parties involved. Governments, businesses, and organisations abroad are also seeking effective climate adaptation methods. The Netherlands can learn from foreign experience in this field. For that reason, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United Nations (UN Environment) are initiating the foundation of a Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation in the Netherlands. This Centre is intended to help expedite climate adaptation by collecting lessons learned from policy, programmes, and projects. This will generate a global knowledge pool regarding what works and what does not work.

With effect from 2018, the local governments will draw up collective incentive programmes for their regions to encourage private spatial adaptation initiatives. Each local government is free to determine the mix of communication and financial incentives it will use to this end. Examples are Rainproof in Amsterdam, KAS in Twente, and the Climate-proof Southern Netherlands programme. Prior to 2020, the central government will explore, in collaboration with district water boards, municipalities, and provinces, the feasibility and effectiveness of using financial incentives, such as tax differentiation, to foster climate-proofing efforts by private parties. Regulating and embedding

Working on climate-proofing is no longer a noncommittal challenge. The parties will embed their contributions in policy and regulations. Governments and private parties must be able to be held to account regarding their contributions, as underpinned by the agreements set down in this Delta Plan. The Delta Programme Commissioner is charged with the statutory duty to monitor the progress of the Delta Programme, including spatial adaptation, and to report on the progress made to the Ministers in the annual Delta Programme. Within the framework of the “Monitoring, Analysing, Acting” approach, the Delta Programme Commissioner is working on a monitoring system, in collaboration with the knowledge institutes. To this end, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency is conducting an exploratory study into the options for monitoring spatial adaptation. The Delta Programme will carry out a baseline measurement in 2018 and an interim evaluation in 2020. The interim evaluation may give reason to adjust the course of the present Delta Plan.

We will retain the current standards pertaining to waterlogging caused by an excess of water in the water system or the sewers. The standards provide clarity regarding responsibilities, and constitute the point of departure for the stress tests and dialogues referred to above. Tackling waterlogging calls for a tailored approach, with an eye for the interconnectivity between the regional soil and water systems, the drainage system, and spatial planning. The current system of standards leaves room for developing tailormade standards based on the requirements ensuing from the regional dialogues, and tying in with new insights into climate change. The Foundation for Applied Water Research STOWA and the RIONED Foundation [umbrella organisation in the field of urban water management and sewer systems] are taking the initiative of drawing up guidelines for the regional differentiation of standards, prior to 2020. The water assessment remains a key instrument for taking into account the damage caused by waterlogging, drought, and urban flooding in spatial plans and decisions. 

In the next five years (by no later than 2022), the municipalities and provinces will explore whether local regulations need to be amended. Some municipalities have already amended their regulations. For example, Eindhoven has set down requirements regarding floor levels in its building regulations pertaining to new urban developments. Laren can make it mandatory upon residents and businesses to process rainwater on their own premises through its local rainwater decree. Municipalities can incorporate such regulations or specific regional standards into policy plans. Prior to 2020, the central government will explore whether additional (building) regulations can be effective and useful in promoting climate-proofing, with sufficient scope for a tailored approach. In addition, the central government will explore how an amendment to the Housing Act can afford housing corporations more scope for contributing to spatial adaptation in new urban developments and maintenance.

Municipalities, district water boards, and provinces are embedding the importance of spatial adaptation in (practical) guidelines regarding urban water, public spaces, greenery, and construction, focusing attention on planning, implementation, procurement, and management. Deventer, Amsterdam, and the Vechtstromen district water board have launched good examples in this regard, which they are sharing through the new Climate-proof Together Platform. The central government, provinces, and municipalities are embedding their spatial adaptation strategies in the new Environmental Visions.

The central government is continuing to work on embedding the strategy pertaining to the national vital and vulnerable functions in accordance with the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation. The outcomes of the stress tests conducted on vital and vulnerable functions will be taken into consideration in this process.

Municipalities and district water boards can also encourage private individuals to assume responsibility for reducing the impact of climate change. We are examining whether the potential of existing regulations is used sufficiently, and whether effective and useful additional regulations are conceivable. Reticence in increasing the regulatory burden is the point of departure in this respect. Before 2020, the central government will explore, in collaboration with the bodies involved, whether and how private responsibilities for spatial adaptation can be embedded through performance guidelines and designations (such as BREEAM, municipal performance guidelines for sustainable building, or the Water label).


Instrument to gauge and assess the sustainability of buildings, areas, and demolition projects. Responding to disasters

A water-resilient and climate-proof spatial design can considerably reduce but never entirely prevent damage and nuisance caused by extreme weather conditions. If damage occurs nonetheless, we want to lend a helping hand and reduce chain effects. Curative measures may limit the damage. Good communication will support residents and businesses, and provide them with a course of action. Curative care also covers the continued insurability of damage and the proper processing of damage claims.

Municipalities and district water boards want to be better prepared for disasters caused by waterlogging, heat, drought, and urban flooding. They will see to it that the Security Regions incorporate such risks in the risk diagrams by no later than 2021, based on the outcomes of the stress tests. Before 2021, these government bodies will set down agreements with the Security Regions regarding the response to disasters caused by extreme weather situations, for which they are jointly preparing in collaboration with the fire brigades, area health authorities, and police departments. Special attention will be focused on emergency facilities and the rapid restoration of vital and vulnerable infrastructure.

Furthermore, the municipalities and district water boards will explore, by no later than 2020, how they themselves can contribute to damage reduction immediately before, during, and after a disaster, through communication, management, and maintenance. Learning from earlier events is important in this respect. This requires attention to be paid to recording data during calamities. The authorities are also exploring which instruments may be helpful to predict extreme weather sooner and more accurately. Timely warnings help to anticipate potential disasters.

Comprehensive dialogue with society (see addresses, inter alia, the additional relief that the various parties could provide during disasters. In addition to government bodies, such parties include NGOs (such as the Red Cross with respect to heat stress), businesses (such as contractors in urban areas and contracting firms in rural areas), and local residents. A case in point is the German university town of Münster, that was hit by extreme rainfall in 2014 (300 mm). As pumping the water away proved ineffective, a volunteer army of students was mobilised to help people in distress. Amsterdam was also hit by waterlogging in 2014. The Waternet water company subsequently set up a taskforce to visit affected residents in their homes, and to recommend preventative measures to prevent any new damage. Government bodies and NGOs can set down agreements in public-private covenants or codes of conduct regarding preparation for disasters, and collaboration before, during, and after a disaster. The continued insurability of damage and proper handling of damage claims is covered by the comprehensive national adaptation dialogue on this theme.

  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