Cross-border cooperation on flood protection

With the signing of a cooperation agreement, the Netherlands and Germany have launched a joint study into flood risk management in the border area between the two countries. The study focuses on applying the Dutch risk-based approach to cross-border dyke sections in the border area between the Netherlands and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Dutch Cabinet has decided to base safety standards on the risk of flooding. This means that North Rhine-Westphalia and the Netherlands currently have very different approaches to flood protection. Through this study, the two countries want to identify the differences and investigate what they mean for the safety of residents on both sides of the border.

Since 1997, the Netherlands and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have worked together on cross-border flood protection through the Arbeitsgruppe Hochwasser (Flood Management Working Group). Representatives from ministries, water authorities, provinces and municipalities from both countries, all of whom are involved in water management and flood protection, participate in this working group. 

Mutual responsibility

Both the Netherlands and Germany work hard on flood protection. The emphasis in the Netherlands is on river widening and dyke improvement projects. In Germany, the focus is on improving dykes and on constructing retention basins upstream. The two countries are dependent on one another as far as protection from floods is concerned. 

New developments

The Dutch Delta Programme includes a vision of the way in which the Netherlands can prepare itself for increased river discharges as a result of climate change. The decision has also been made to tighten up the standards for our dykes and to base them on the scale of the risks for people and businesses behind the dykes.

Our neighbours in Germany take a different approach when designing and assessing their dykes. During the Flood Management Conference in October 2014, the results were presented of an initial joint study aimed at identifying differences in working methods and determining their significance for the protection level of residents and businesses in the border area. We have now – in part thanks to the Delta Programme – taken a further step forward. More than enough reason to re-examine these dyke rings, which lie partially in the Netherlands and partially in Germany, in the context of new developments and based on the latest insights.

Cooperation

The study that has now begun is an extension of the cooperation between the two countries that has existed for many years. The main focus of the current study is on flood protection in the border area. A joint analysis of the flood risks will be performed and possible measures to mitigate these risks will also be analyzed. In this regard, the consequences of dyke breaches for both countries will also be examined. Furthermore, a comparison will be made of the Dutch and German approaches to flood risk management.

The results of the study can be used to harmonize flood protection and they will enable investments in flood management to be made in the most effective manner. The two-year study is co-funded by Dutch and German partners. Rijkswaterstaat (the executive arm of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) is coordinating the study. The German-Dutch Flood Management Working Group (Arbeitsgruppe Hochwasser) is the study initiator and is supervising the project. On behalf of the partners, the working group will ensure that the study delivers the desired result.