New National Water Plan: linking water and spatial planning more intelligently

The Netherlands has a new National Water Plan. Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) and State Secretary Van Dam (Economic Affairs) have set down how, for the next 6 years, the Netherlands will protect itself from water, how our water will be made cleaner and how the Netherlands will be designed in a climate-resilient and water-robust manner. The National Water Plan 2016-2021 also contains actions that will enable the Netherlands to remain a leader in water management and actions which will raise the awareness of the Dutch population regarding living with water. 

The Minister and State Secretary submitted the new National Water Plan to the House of Representatives today. Ms Schultz: ‘If we want to continue to live in comfort and safety in our delta, water issues have to be combined with other spatial planning projects. For example, combining dyke improvement with nature development, or combating pluvial flooding with urban redevelopment. If everyone is aware of water when working on the spatial design of the Netherlands, we can keep our delta attractive and climate resilient in an affordable way.’

Mr Van Dam: ‘Rivers criss-cross the Netherlands, and they have shaped our landscape and natural environment. Water is vital for the production of our food and it affords us a great many recreational opportunities. We sail on water, and we swim in it. Together, we can ensure a water-rich natural environment which will also allow us to keep our feet dry.’

Climate change

Climate change has a serious impact on our delta: bigger storm surges at sea, more water flowing through rivers, more frequent heavy rainfall, heat waves, and droughts. We need stronger dykes and wider rivers, and more options for capturing rainwater in the places where it falls. All this costs money and requires a lot of space. The Netherlands will become safer if, in our spatial planning, we take more account of water. In addition, agreements need to be made on water at the European level because rivers and seas do not respect national borders. 


The new National Water Plan focuses on 5 ambitions. We want the Netherlands to become the safest delta in the world. This ambition will be achieved mainly by revising our flood-safety standards. The cabinet has chosen to invest more in improving water quality (reducing levels of fertilisers, pesticides, drug residues, microplastics), so that Dutch water becomes cleaner and healthier, and to work towards ensuring an adequate supply of fresh water. Furthermore, the cabinet wants the Netherlands to be designed in a climate-resilient and water-robust manner, and it wants our country to be and remain at the vanguard of water management and water innovations. This is of benefit to our economy and our earning capacity. Finally, the cabinet wants to raise the awareness of the Dutch population regarding living with water. 


Without stronger dykes, 60% of the Netherlands will regularly become flooded. Nine million people live in that area and 70% of our GDP is generated there. Sixteen percent of our economy is dependent on an adequate supply of fresh water. These water-dependent sectors generate a turnover of more than 193 billion euros a year. 

6 years

The National Water Plan lays down the new water policy for the coming 6 years and also looks ahead to 2050. It includes the Delta Decisions (on flood risk management, the freshwater supply, and spatial adaptation), and the North Sea Policy Document with a spatial plan. Agreements on water from the Energy Agreement, the Nature Policy Vision Document, the International Water Ambition, and plans and measures programmes through which we will meet European requirements for water quality, flood risks, and the marine environment are also embedded in the National Water Plan.