Progress in freshwater supply

The Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply and the associated Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply are fostering a sufficient freshwater supply in the Netherlands, now and in the future, an attractive living environment, and a strong economic position. All over the Netherlands measures aimed at the efficient use, retention, storage, and supply of fresh water are in progress. A new programme of measures for the period 2022-2028 is being prepared. The freshwater supply regions and the central government are providing clarity regarding the responsibilities by substantiating the Water Availability instrument. Consultations with major water consumers regarding a more economical use of water are under way. The water managers are working collectively on Smart Water Management, inter alia, with a view to a more efficient distribution of water during water shortages.

Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply

See DP2015, Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply.

Water Availability instrument.

The Water Availability instrument indicates the availability of freshwater and the probability of water shortage in a particular area, in both normal and dry situations.

On schedule

For the schedule of studies, measures, and provisions relating to freshwater supply, refer to the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply (Part III). The Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply is implemented along three tracks: the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply, the Water Availability instrument, and the Knowledge Track. The three tracks are on schedule.

Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply

The measures set out in the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply are being implemented according to schedule. All the freshwater supply regions and Rijkswaterstaat are working on the preparation and implementation of the measures agreed upon. For some measures, an integrated approach has been adopted by linking the freshwater supply tasking to other taskings. In several cases, this has caused some delay. For example, the area development project in Dulf-Mersken and the vicinity is likely to incur a delay of one year, because the required terrain is not yet available. However, the entire set of measures is expected to have been completed by 2021, as scheduled (see Part III, Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply).

The Smart Water Management measure from the Delta Plan is aimed at efficient operational water management using IT and reaching across the management boundaries. New applications to this end, such as lines of reasoning and information screens, have proven their value in recent calamities. Tools to effect a cultural change, such as serious games, also prove effective. Several studies support the introduction of “Smart Water Management”, such as the use of a risk-based approach to (fresh) water availability in operational water management.

Interconnectivity with the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation and the Environmental Visions calls for attention. The impact of drought in built-up areas is a point of focus in terms of spatial adaptation. Drought in rural areas is addressed under the freshwater supply strategy. Soil subsidence is considered in the project brief for the National Environmental Vision. The Environmental Visions that the central government, provinces, and municipalities are going to draw up, by virtue of the Environment Act, open up opportunities for incorporating agreements set down under the Water Availability instrument, and link taskings to other social taskings.

Environmental Visions

The central government and the provinces must have environmental visions in place once the Environment Act comes into force. Following its entry into force, the municipalities have a period of five years to draw up environmental visions.

Progress with Water Availability

The first results of the area processes ensuing from the Water Availability instrument are becoming manifest. For example, in the Haarlemmermeer polder, measures have been taken to promote more efficient flushing, with new automated inlet control. The Hollands Noorderkwartier district water control board and farmers are jointly measuring the surface water salt content of the Oostpolder, and the Hunze en Aa’s district water board has set up a measuring network to monitor how ceasing to flush will affect the chloride content in Oldambt. The Vitens drinking water company, the association of drinking water companies VEWIN, and the province of Gelderland are conducting initial explorations into the availability of groundwater for the drinking water supply. Vitens is also hooking up with a water availability pilot in the eastern part of the Netherlands. The drinking water companies can use the experience gained in the process to gauge water availability.

The main water system is also making headway on the provision of transparency regarding water availability. In 2016, the Wabes project produced a map with 150 locations for which the probability of sufficient freshwater will be charted in 2017. To this end, Wabes has subjected the results of the National Water Model to statistical post-processing. In four regional sessions, the regions and consumers have gained an initial picture of the information they may expect from Wabes. In 2016, an intensive dialogue and two rounds of sector and regional meetings have generated the Main Water System Water Availability Dummy 0.1. In 2017, the central government will substantiate this in concert with the regions and consumers. Thus, a joint picture of water availability in the main water system will gradually evolve.

Wabes project

Dutch acronym for water availability of the main system.

In January 2016, the Freshwater Administrative Platform set down semi-annual water availability benchmark dates, in order to be able to monitor and adjust progress in the regions and the main water system. The May 2017 assessment showed that the elaboration of the Water Availability instrument is in full swing. All over the country regional elaborations are being produced. The implementation is thus on schedule, and the first results are becoming manifest. At the behest of consumers, wherever possible the efforts are geared to other taskings and area processes in fields such as climate adaptation, waterlogging, water quality, and the updating of water level ordinances. The perception of problems is not equivocal. Particularly with respect to the major freshwater stocks, such as the IJsselmeer, Hollandsch Diep, and Haringvliet, some of the parties feel less urgency to elaborate the Water Availability instrument. The transition from taking sufficient water for granted to a shared responsibility for water availability is under way, but takes time. The governments concerned will compile a roadmap to explain how water availability is gradually substantiated to a nationwide picture in 2021, in accordance with the Delta Decision on Freshwater Supply. The roadmap also provides insight into the interconnectivity between the agreements on water availability, the updating of the bottleneck analysis, and the national freshwater supply goals, in preparation for the second phase of the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply (2022-2028). It is important for water availability to be incorporated into environmental policy at all levels. Several regions are already working on that; it still requires further attention.

In the autumn of 2017, the evaluation of the water availability process, instruments, and ambitions will commence. The results will be available in 2018, as set out in Delta Programme 2015, and will be incorporated into Delta Programme 2019. The Delta Decision stipulates that the Water Availability instrument must have been elaborated everywhere by 2021. The benchmarks and the evaluation will prove whether such ambition is feasible. An initial picture of the area-based elaboration will be available in 2018. 

Knowledge Track

The Freshwater Supply Knowledge Track is aimed at generating new expertise on the water system, improving model instruments, providing insight into the effectiveness of hydrological and economic measures, and securing knowledge for the review of the freshwater supply strategy. The studies are on schedule.

In 2016, the Rhine-Meuse Estuary System Analysis study (Deltares) and the study into the salt tolerance of agricultural crops (Alterra) generated more insight into salinisation and its impact. The results are now being put to use in the National Water Model, the Agriculture Water Guide, Bottleneck Analysis 2.0, and Smart Water Management. The combination of technical detail studies (e.g., into the Meuse-Waal connection), joint fact-finding processes exploring alternative freshwater supply routes to the western part of the Netherlands, and field tests (such as the innovative climate adaptation pilots) have generated more insight into the effectiveness of freshwater supply measures. The study scheduled for 2017 will provide more in-depth knowledge. Several (knowledge) projects have been launched regarding soil and water improvement, and the interconnectivity of soil and water. This fosters a transition to sustainable agriculture. For example, the long-term research programme Lumbricus provides insight into a climate-resilient soil and water system on the sandy soils. In 2017, the new methods for modelling the probability of water shortage and its hydrological and economic impact will be put to use in, e.g., the Bottleneck Analysis 2.0. In addition, the knowledge on local scale impact will be expanded to the impact at the regional scale.

On track

The Freshwater Supply Delta Programme is on track. Currently, there is no reason for reviewing the preferential strategy. The expectation is that the current and scheduled measures will suffice to realise the goals set out in the preferential strategy properly and in good time. The preferential strategy is reviewed every six years; the next review is scheduled for 2020. The reviews are based on new insights, such as the latest climate scenarios, the impact of external developments, and the Bottleneck Analysis 2.0.

The Adaptive Delta Management Indicators and Threshold Values project focuses on a system that indicates whether a next step in the freshwater supply adaptation path is coming into view. This provides points of departure for timely investment decisions (not too early, not too late). The Bottleneck Analysis that commenced in 2017 also underpins measures scheduled in phase 2 of the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply (2022-2028). 

Integrated approach

An integrated point of view is common practice in freshwater supply measures. The stakeholders in the freshwater supply regions gather various water quality and water quantity goals, respond to climate change, and factor in other interests of consumers. For example, the area processes involving water availability also address issues such as waterlogging, water quality, and climate adaptation. In many cases, water shortage and waterlogging are two sides of the same coin: water availability solutions often also constitute a solution to waterlogging. Increasingly more freshwater supply measures are being linked to spatial adaptation measures, especially those involving drought issues. The provinces of Noord-Holland and Flevoland have set up integrated Soil-Water programmes, in which farmers actively participate in solutions to water quality, water shortage, and waterlogging. The municipalities in Parkstad Limburg have developed ideas and measures to reduce the impact of both drought and waterlogging in the urban area. The joint fact-finding process exploring alternative water supply routes to the western part of the Netherlands also identifies opportunities for other functions and other regions, such as nature in lake Haringvliet.

A topical item is the integration with energy issues. The innovative freshwater-saltwater separation near the Krammer locks is opening up opportunities for the generation and storage of sustainable energy. Such options are also being explored in the remodelling of the Irene locks, if the preferential alternative is a bypass. The Kop van de Betuwe area exploration combines the supply of freshwater with the generation of thermal energy from surface water. 

The Declaration of Intent on the Delta Approach to Water Quality and Freshwater Supply, which the governments, NGOs, and knowledge institutes signed at the end of 2016, fosters an integrated approach to the freshwater supply and water quality taskings. This approach, in its turn, constitutes an incentive to the Delta Plan on Agricultural Water Management, which combines water and agriculture taskings. 


In the freshwater supply regions of West-Netherlands, IJsselmeer Region, Elevated Sandy Soils, and Southwest Delta, the agriculture, drinking water, and in most cases, nature sectors also participate in the administrative regional consultative bodies. Entrepreneurs are involved in the regional consultative body of the IJsselmeer Region. (Local) stakeholders are involved in concrete measures. For example, Rijkswaterstaat has set up an intensive process involving all the stakeholders, in order to develop a water level ordinance for the IJsselmeer Region in which all the interests concerned have been taken into consideration. Power grid managers and power suppliers are involved in the plans for the generation and storage of sustainable energy near the Krammer locks.

The participation of municipalities is focused on the water availability process (West-Netherlands, IJsselmeer Region, Southwest Delta). With respect to the Elevated Sandy Soils, the wider involvement of municipalities in water availability is a point of attention. The province of Limburg now actively involves municipalities, along with other water consumers, in the pilots. The East region has drawn up the Realisation Strategy for freshwater supply measures in the eastern part of the Netherlands, aimed in part at expanding the involvement of municipalities and other partners. Linkage of freshwater supply and climate adaptation is likely to open up additional opportunities in this respect. This calls for proper coordination with the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation and the existing working units under the Administrative Agreement on Water (water chain). A positive result is that the provincial arrangements for parties that had not yet submitted projects have generated many applications from municipalities (and farmers) in the South region. Several projects will be launched in 2017.

  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