The risk of flooding in the Netherlands is steadily growing. The capacity of flood plains and rivers are decreasing and water levels rise due to more frequent and heavier rainfall.

This was especially the case in the 1990s when parts of the Netherlands suffered severe flood damage. Due to these extremely high water levels, 'room for the river' became the new starting point for the flood protection approach in our river areas.

In 2007 the Dutch Government started with the development of the Room for the River Programme. Main goal was to manage higher water levels in rivers by lowering the levels of flood plains, creating water buffers, relocating levees, increasing the depth of side channels, and the construction of flood bypasses. The programme consisted of over 30 projects that were completed at the end of 2018.

Restoring the river’s natural flood plain

The key of the Room for the River approach is to restore the river’s natural flood plain in places where it is least harmful in order to protect those areas that need to be defended. The plan had three objectives:

  • By 2015 the branches of the Rhine will cope with a discharge capacity of 16,000 cubic metres of water per second without flooding;
  • The measures implemented to increase safety will also improve the overall environmental quality of the river region;
  • The extra room the rivers will need in the coming decades to cope with higher discharges due to the forecast climate changes, will remain permanently available.

Measures at more than 30 locations

The Room for the River programme encompassed four rivers: the Rhine, the Meuse, the Waal, and the IJssel. At more than 30 locations, measures were taken to give the river space to flood safely. Moreover, the measures were designed in such a way that they improved the quality of the immediate surroundings. 

A total of 19 partners - the provinces, municipalities, regional water authorities and Rijkswaterstaat cooperated in the implementation of the Room for the River Programme. The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management was responsible for the overall programme.