The Netherlands is a delta, a low lying area where three major rivers meet and flow into the sea. A densely populated area, which is home to the sixteenth largest economy of the world. The Netherlands is vulnerable not only to flooding, but also to water depletion, shortages of groundwater, subsidence, salt intrusion and pollution. With these dangers surrounding us, we have been forced to become skilled water managers. The Dutch have cultivated the art of hydraulic engineering, not only in a technical sense but also as part of the very complex spatial planning. .
Hydraulic engineering and water management in the Netherlands includes operations (dredging, 'wet' hydraulic engineering), design and consultancy (engineering firms and consultancies), knowledge development (universities and Major Technological Institutes), project commissioning (Rijkswaterstaat, water boards, port managers and private clients) and also policy (national and provincial authorities, water boards, the Dutch Society for the Preservation of Nature).
Together with government policy that encourages innovation, these are necessary preconditions for the success of the sector. In order to remain successful, the government must continue to play a high-profile role in the sector, for example by encouraging innovation and creating home markets.
Developments like climate change accelerate the pace at which the Netherlands must find ways to ensure its productivity and safety. In 2010 the Dutch government launched the second Delta Programme to ensure the safety and appeal of the Netherlands, now but also in the future. The Delta Programme aims to keep future generations safe from the water and ensure a sufficient supply of fresh water during the century to come. It is not only a precondition for the economy, the programme provides a new opportunity to create an attractive country in which people enjoy living, working and recreation.
The Dutch water and delta technologies are renowned across the globe. The Delta Programme gives the Netherlands the possibility to confirm and extend its leading position. This position also creates the obligation to share knowledge and expertise, for example via the Global Water Programme that is directed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. In this programme, long-term cooperation has been entered into with five delta regions: Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mozambique and Egypt.
New approaches to land and water management that are being developed in the Netherlands:
- adaptive delta management – implementing measures aimed at postponing certain turning points, enabling to postpone the need for radical measures. In the mean time it is possible to learn more about climate change and develop innovative solutions.
- room for the river - creating room along the major rivers so that the design discharge can flow to the sea without the need for increasing the corresponding design high water levels.
- building with nature – coastal management at the interface between land and sea with the objective to bring about a flexible, dynamic and balanced coastline consisting of dunes and beaches, with growth and erosion leading to a reasonably stable coast, which will require a minimum of maintenance in the form of periodic sand supplementation.