Progress in flood risk management

Flood risk management policy has been updated under the Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management. This policy aims to ensure that by no later than 2050, the probability of fatality due to flooding will be reduced to 1 in 100,000 per annum (.001%) or less, for every individual in the Netherlands. Additional protection will be provided in areas prone to potentially large groups of victims, major economic damage, or serious damage due to failure of vital and vulnerable infrastructure of national significance. In order to attain these goals new flood protection standards have come into force on 1 January 2017.

Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management.

See DP2015, Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management.

On schedule

For the schedule of studies, measures, and provisions relating to flood risk management, refer to the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management (Part III). The various components of the Delta Decision on Flood Risk Management are all on schedule. That is important: they constitute a precondition for the timely implementation of the preferential strategies in the various regions.

Statutory and financial basis

Entirely as planned, the new flood risk management policy, incorporating the new standards, has been embedded in law. This is a major step forward. The amended Water Act has come into force on 1 January 2017; both the House of Representatives and the Senate have adopted the amendment unanimously. The Act also regulates how measures required under the new standards will be funded from the existing State grants and the contributions of the district water boards to the Flood Protection Programme. The Delta Fund provides a solid and long-term basis for the funding of flood risk management efforts.

The new ministerial regulation for the assessment of primary flood defence systems has also come into effect in good time. The regulation and the underlying instruments enable flood defence system managers to embark on their assessment of the primary flood defence systems. The instruments will be developed in more detail over the next two years. The Flood Protection Grants Scheme 2014 has been adapted to the new standards.

Upon the introduction of the new standards, several so-called Category C dykes have lost their function in the primary system and now serve as regional flood defence systems. Appendix VI to the Water Decree lists the category C dykes qualifying for a once-only grant for the implementation of measures to meet the provincial standards.

Assessment: first picture of national security

The First Primary Flood Defence Systems Assessment Round commenced in early 2017, as scheduled. District water boards and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, including Rijkswaterstaat and the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, have published a scenario with process agreements on the Water Helpdesk website. The aim is to have a first national picture of the flood risk situation by 2023. In the years ahead, the parties will learn to work with the new system, and flood defence systems urgently in need of improvement will be tackled. Reports on the subsequent assessment rounds, that are scheduled every twelve years, will be available in 2035 and 2047. The 2035 report is intended to provide a more detailed picture of the flood risk situation; the goal is for a majority of the primary flood defence systems to meet the standards by 2047. This schedule brings the target of having all the primary flood defence systems meet the new standards by 2050 within reach.

All the district water boards have set down an action plan for the assessment which will be regularly refined and adjusted on the basis of their first experience with the new assessment system and tools. The district water boards and Rijkswaterstaat have placed the assessment high on their agendas, the required resources and capacities have been budgeted, and the managers have agreed to join forces and share their expertise and know-how. By now, six assessments have been completed (mid-2017). 


The new Design Instruments have become available in January 2017 (OI 2014v4): they are included in a manual for designing primary flood defence systems according to the flood probability approach, incorporating the guidelines and technical reports currently available. This manual ties in with the instruments used for the assessment of flood defence systems (WBI2017). In 2017, a new system will be available for technical guidelines and reports, facilitating the retrieval, management, and updating of expertise.

Flood Protection Programme

The dyke improvements set out in the Flood Protection Programme have been prioritised by urgency. The most urgent projects have been incorporated into the programme and for the majority of these projects explorations are under way. The Flood Protection Programme is on schedule; its progress is reflected in the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management (Part III). In the spring of 2017, consultative meetings were conducted regarding the draft Flood Protection Programme 2018-2023, in accordance with the Water Act (Article 7.23). The water managers have endorsed the draft programme, save some minor adjustments. Every effort has been made to accommodate the adjustments within the underlying principles of the programme. The water managers have also endorsed the General Exploration regarding dyke improvements using local soil.

General Exploration regarding dyke improvements using local soil.

See Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management, Flood Protection Programme, General Explorations.

Dyke improvements and river widening

The provinces, district water boards, and Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment are protecting the area around the major rivers against flooding with a powerful combination of dyke improvements and river widening. Several ongoing studies exploring the options for river widening along the Meuse and the Rhine provide short-term clarity regarding the interaction with scheduled and future dyke improvements under the Flood Protection Programme. For the period beyond 2030, the long-term ambition must provide such clarity (cf. Rhine and Meuse). It is important for this ambition to be completed in good time and embedded in policy in order for it to be taken into account in short-term dyke improvements. The Delta Programme Commissioner regularly confers with the administrators concerned on this topic.

Risk-based approach in other procedures

The district water boards have started to incorporate the new standards into all their procedures in order to safeguard the proper and timely implementation of flood risk management policy. They have conducted impact analyses to map out how the new standards will impact management and maintenance, licensing procedures, and disaster control. The district water boards are using the new expertise and insights when drawing up and carrying out maintenance plans, assessing permit applications, and updating dyke boundaries. 

In the spring of 2017, the Informatiehuis Water produced the Flood Risk Management portal: a facility enabling the exchange of information on the assessment and improvement of primary flood defence systems between managers, the Ministry (including the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate), and the Flood Protection Programme.

Informatiehuis Water

The Informatiehuis Water is a collaborative of water managers, focused on the provision of uniform, accessible, and useful information about water.

In collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat, the district water boards and provinces are exploring whether elements and insights from the new safety system for primary flood defence systems can also be applied to regional flood defence systems. In 2016, the district water boards and provinces, under the auspices of the Foundation for Applied Water Research STOWA and with support from the central government, compiled the Visie op de regional waterkeringen 2016. Verder bouwen op een goed fundament [Vision of the regional flood defence systems 2016. Continuing to build on a solid foundation]. In the years ahead, they will implement a collective policy and knowledge agenda. In addition, the provinces and district water boards are examining the necessity of developing a provincial standard for former primary flood defence systems.

Smart combinations

In specific situations, for example, involving locations at which dyke improvement will be extremely expensive or encroach deeply on social life, “smart combinations” with spatial planning and/or disaster management may be made to reduce the dyke improvement effort and nonetheless attain the protection level. In such “smart combinations”, agreements are made on a case-by-case basis. Such “smart combinations” may hold promise for ten to twenty sections of primary flood defence systems. These are sections at which the standard is dictated by the Local Individual Risk (LIR). Specific local circumstances, such as the presence of regional flood defence systems, may also open up opportunities for “smart combinations”. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will be exploring, in collaboration with the regions, how smart combinations can be employed for these promising sections, and whether all the potentially promising sections have been identified.

Reducing the impact of a flood (layer 2)

Another important consideration in spatial developments, in addition to smart combinations, is reducing the impact of a flood. The challenge is to develop a spatial design that minimises both the impact of flooding and the residual risk. This could limit, defer, or obviate the need for future dyke improvements, and render the Netherlands more resilient to climate change. The Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management is substantiating this, along with the new Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

residual risk

The risk that remains once the flood defence systems are up to par.

Disaster management (layer 3)

In the years ahead, the Security Regions, in collaboration with water and road managers, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Ministry of Security and Justice, and other stakeholders, will map out the effects of a water crisis (coastal flooding, river flooding, or serious waterlogging). This is the outcome of the Water and Evacuation project, one of the three strategic agenda projects of the Veiligheidsberaad (administrative platform of 25 Security Region chairs) and the Ministry of Security and Justice. In 2018, each Security Region must have completed an impact analysis; these will serve as the basis for the adoption of an Action Perspectives Strategy in 2020, aimed at, e.g., evacuation and rescue operations. The results of the impact analysis also constitute an important basis for identifying the most effective impact-reducing measures. Thirteen out of the 25 Security Regions are conducting or have completed an impact analysis (mid-2017). The “Eiland van Dordrecht” impact analysis was the first to be completed.

Another result of the Water and Evacuation project is the guideline for increasing the collective coping capacity (i.e., residents helping one another) in a water crisis. This guideline features communication tools that Security Regions and other stakeholders may use. The Guide to Information Exchange comprises agreements on the exchange of information in the event of a water crisis and how to prepare: how, what, when, by whom, and with whom? The Water Management Centre of the Netherlands operates the National Water and Floods Information System (LIWO), that plays an important part in this respect. In the years ahead, the Security Regions will continue to work on the implementation of the results of the project, on crisis plans for each catchment area, and on national evacuation strategies. The Delta Programme Steering Group seeks to have the Security Regions tie in with the regional consultative bodies of the Delta Programme. This bears a tailored approach.

Rijkswaterstaat is exploring how the evacuation function can be accommodated in its working processes, and examining the options for a reversed laning pilot (temporarily changing the direction of traffic, in order to expedite evacuation).

On track

Following the completion of the First Primary Flood Defence Systems Assessment Round, the Delta Programme will indicate annually whether the dyke improvements are proceeding at a pace that enables attainment of the goal set for 2050. 

The new standards represent a major change. In the years ahead, flood defence system managers, supervisory bodies, and private parties will be gaining experience with the new approach to flood risk management in accordance with the amended regulations. Together with the planned evaluations of the new instruments, the progress of measures, and expertise amassed in the General Explorations, such experience will reveal whether the course set for flood risk management needs adjusting. The evaluations of the standards, the first of which is scheduled for 2024 and which will subsequently be conducted once every twelve years, will also address the developments in layer 2 (impact reduction) and layer 3 (disaster control).

evaluations of the new instruments

The interim evaluations of the assessment process (2019 and 2021) and the final evaluation (2023, concurrently with the National Assessment of Flood Probabilities), the evaluation of the Flood Protection Grants Scheme (2019), and the evaluation of the co-funding of primary flood defence system improvements (2023).

Integrated approach

Several developments foster the integrated approach to dyke improvements. For example, the amended Flood Protection Grants Scheme now allows grants for so-called pre-explorations (also referred to as early explorations) as an optional component of the exploration phase of a dyke improvement project. This opens up possibilities for using grants at an earlier stage of sections of the exploration featuring a long lead time, for example, mapping out, in collaboration with regional parties, the opportunities for linkage with other taskings in the vicinity of the dyke section to be improved. The Flood Protection Programme supports an integrated approach to dyke improvements with the Handreiking landschappelijke inpassing en ruimteijke kwaliteit in waterveiligheidsopgaven [Guidelines for landscaping and spatial quality in flood risk management taskings]. Any costs saved on dyke improvements can be factored in when selecting river-widening measures or smart combinations.

The Flood Protection Programme and the sub-areas feature many integrated approach showcases: the link between the Tiel-Waardenburg dyke improvement and the Varik-Heesselt bypass along the Rhine, the Strong Lek Dyke project, the link between the Eemshaven-Delfzijl dyke improvement and the regional tasking, the comprehensive Grebbedijk exploration, the double dyke concept along the Wadden Sea, and the exploration of a dyke improvement, river widening, and area development combination near Ravenstein-Lith along the Dyked River Meuse and in the Northern Meuse Valley in Limburg. In some cases, river widening measures can help to attain water quality targets; take, for example, the longitudinal groynes in the river Waal, and the secondary channel in the Hemelrijkse Waard.

In the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden area, the IJsselmeer Region, and the Wadden Region, the studies into multi-layer flood risk management are good examples of an integrated approach. 


The procedure for dyke improvement projects that are carried out within the context of the Flood Protection Programme is based on the MIRT [Multi-Year Programme for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and Transport] system. This entails that managers substantiate participation in explorations for dyke improvements through active stakeholder management. The guidelines for explorations and plan elaborations provided by the Flood Protection Programme indicate how such participation can be fleshed out. Bodies with a direct interest are involved from the outset. Rijkswaterstaat and the district water boards are organising education and training activities in order further to improve the quality of stakeholder management and participation. 

Flood defence system managers, private parties, and knowledge institutes are closely involved in General Explorations and the assessment of primary flood defence systems. The new approach to flood risk management calls for the active development and transfer of knowledge. The Risk-based Approach Knowledge Platform (design) and the Expertise and Know-how Platform (assessment) play a pivotal role in this respect. An active helpdesk supports flood defence system managers in the first assessment round.

The provinces play a key part in the adoption of the project plans for dyke improvements. In 2016, a training course on the introduction of the new standards was set up for provincial staff in order to enable them properly to participate in flood risk management projects. In addition, the provinces can be actively involved in terms of spatial quality and – with a view to the Environment Act – environmental quality. Such involvement is already manifest in, e.g., the Strong Lek Dykes project and the Ravenstein-Lith project.

Collaboration with experts, universities, and private parties is vitally important in the pursuit of flood risk management. In December 2016, the Flood Risk Management Expertise Network (ENW) published the Grondslagen voor hoogwaterbescherming [Foundations for flood protection]. In that same month, the Applied and Technological Sciences domain of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO-TTW accepted the All Risk research proposal submitted by five universities (led by Delft University of Technology), which is aimed at furthering expertise on flood risk management. The Flood Protection Programme, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and the district water boards are actively involved in this research.

  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