Dutch Approach to Water Management

A blog post I made for Provision Library on 9/14/2011 summarizing an event I attended at the Resources for the Future:


Today I attended a morning discussion called “Managing Extreme Events in our Rivers and Coastal Areas: Reflections on the Dutch Approach,” presented by Resources for the Future and the Royal Netherlands Embassy. My two biggest takeaways from the discussion are:

  1. Water management will be a critical aspect of modern civilization in the 21st century,
  2. Governments need a system wide approach that seeks collaborative partnership with businesses, NGOs, and government agencies.

Wim Kuijken, The Delta Programme Commissioner

The highlight of the discussion was listening to Wim Kuijken, Delta Commissioner of the Netherlands, speak about their new Delta Programme to improve flood risk management and access to sufficient freshwater amidst changing climate. This is a national initiative that seeks collaboration from multiple stakeholder groups.

The Delta Programme is critical in preserving the Dutch way of life because the Neatherlands is located on a basin that includes three major rivers flowing through the nation into the North Sea: Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt. This region is historically susceptible to flooding because of extreme climate and below sea level altitude, which leads to erosion and increased salinity. New challenges stem from increase in population and climate change. With over 16 million people in the country smart spatial development is a challenge and river discharge from industrial activity. Meanwhile climate change is creating more extreme weather, increase in intense rainfall in the region and rise in sea level.

The new delta program’s objective is to address safety for now and in the future. The program brings together the national government, provincial government, water boards, and municipalities. The project requires active participation from social organizations, knowledge institutes, and commercial enterprises. Currently there are three national programs and six regional programs.

The Commissioner summed up the program in what he calls the 5 Dutch D’s: delta programme (safety), delta decisions (future), delta commissioner (systematic change), delta funds and delta bills (policy). Some of the actions implemented include strengthening the existing infrastructure of dkyes, dams and floodplain; creating smart spatial development in the floodplains to mitigate extreme weather events; and passing bills that create long-term policies to continue the risk management aspects of this initiative. One aspect of the program I found really intriguing is how the program is creating a fund to provide €1 billion per year for delta management. This is critical in ensuring that vision the Delta Programme created is able to continue beyond the initial project.

The Dutch Delta Programme is definitely something other countries should study. With population growth and climate change having access to freshwater and managing floods will play a big role in maintaining economic and social stability. Water management programs cannot be something that is pushed by businesses or citizen organizations. It has to be a systematic approach that requires active participation from all levels of governances. With oversight from government, businesses have too much freedom to infringe on human rights by purchasing access to water tables for the benefit of the corporate entity. Or people might develop properties and tap into scarce natural resources without concerns of long-term impact. Netherlands Delta Programme attempts to find a balance between all the stakeholders. The program seeks collaborative approach that seeks the inputs of the citizen, business community, municipalities, and regional organizations. That is why it is a model that others should study.


About John Costa

I am a farmer in training with a background in finance, organizational sustainability, and project management. My expertise is making the business case for local food enterprises.
This entry was posted in Culture, Economy, Ecosystem, Environment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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