Aim of the Delta Programme

The Netherlands is a low-lying country with an abundance of water (delta). This position renders the country vulnerable. The Delta Programme features plans to protect the Netherlands against flooding, freshwater shortages, and the impact of extreme weather.

The government wants to prevent a repetition of the 1953 flood disaster and of river flooding, as in the 1990s. The Delta Programme sets out the plans to achieve these goals.

The Delta Programme is aimed at:

  • protecting the Netherlands against flooding, now and in the future;
  • ensuring sufficient freshwater supplies;
  • climate-proofing the country’s spatial planning.

Protecting the Netherlands against flooding

After the disastrous floods of 1953, the Dutch government introduced measures to protect the country more effectively against flooding, for example, by setting down agreements on the height of dykes and the coast.

However, now, more than 60 years later, circumstances have changed:

  • measurements show that the sea level is rising while the soil is subsiding;
  • extreme downpours occur with increasing frequency;
  • the population of the Netherlands has grown, so a flood would cause more victims;
  • nearly 60% of the Netherlands is prone to flooding. This area encompasses the largest cities. Part of this area is the economic hub of the Netherlands.

This entails new risks. For that reason, the Netherlands needs to plan its flood risk management. These plans are set out in the annual Delta Programme (PDF).

Ensuring sufficient freshwater supplies

Measurements show that temperatures are rising. Consequently, summers are becoming hotter and drier. This could lead to a shortage of fresh water, which will primarily impact the agriculture sector, industry, and nature.

For this reason, the Delta Programme contains agreements on the availability of fresh water, i.e., what exactly the government can offer in which cases. The sectors that use large volumes of fresh water thus know what they can count on.

Climate-proofing the country’s spatial planning

In order to minimise the impact of waterlogging, heat, drought, and urban flooding, with effect from 2018 the Delta Programme will encompass a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

The government seeks to gain more insight into the vulnerabilities to weather extremes, in order to be able to take appropriate measures. Spatial adaptation must become a matter of course in every physical intervention that is carried out in our country.

The Netherlands: an international leader in water management

The Delta Programme may also serve as a model of good practice. The Netherlands is keen to share its water management expertise with other countries who want to learn more about how to protect themselves against flooding.