Long-term Scenarios for the Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden Delta

The Netherlands has the best protected delta in the world. But how do we safeguard our country against high water in the long run?

And how can we make sure the Netherlands also remains an attractive country to live, work and invest?

The measures required to these ends are prepared and elaborated in the Delta Programme. This is a national programme in which state government, provinces, municipalities, and water boards collaborate with social organizations, business communities and knowledge institutes under the direction of the government commissioner for the Delta Programme (the Delta Commissioner).

Delta Scenarios
A set of four scenarios was developed to provide a comprehensive view of the possible futures in the extremely long term (up to 2100): FULL, STEAM, CALM and HOT. The environmental and socio-economic changes are considered the driving forces behind the divergent conditions for water management in the next century. The two key uncertainties of the Delta Scenarios are:

  • Will there be a moderate or rapid climate change?
  • Is there socio-economic growth or socio-economic decline?

Sub-programme Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden
The Delta Programme consists of 9 sub-programmes, one of which is the sub-programme Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden. The Rhine Estuary, the Drechtsteden, and the connected areas of Haringvliet, Hollands Diep, and the waters linked to them (the Northern Delta Basins) form the transitional zone between the North Sea and the Rhine and Meuse rivers. A feature of this region is that the water levels, currents and sediment transport (the movement of sediment such as sand and gravel) is influenced by both the sea and the rivers. Sea and river processes meet up, strengthening or weakening one another.
The predicted climate change has various consequences for the region. The rising sea level can give rise to dangerous situations sooner and more frequently in case of storm surges. Barriers will then need to be closed more often. The higher closure frequency increases the chance of a closure coinciding with a high river discharge. Climate change entails a greater chance that the required frequency of river discharges will increase, as will the quantities of water to be discharged. The combination of a higher sea level and high river discharges will mean that in the future, water levels will be higher than they are now. Consequently, the areas outside the dikes will be flooded more often and to a greater extent.

Regional Delta Scenarios
To prepare for decision-making about the development of the water system in the region, research was done into possible long term scenarios for the region up to 2100. Three thematic studies explored future developments for the urban area, port, industrial cluster, agriculture, nature, and recreation, with the national Delta Scenarios as a starting point. De Ruijter Strategy worked on the process and the report of the urban study and explored possible futures for the urban area of the Rhine Estuary and the Drechtsteden up to 2100; Studio Marco Vermeulen designed images of what the urban region might look like in the different scenarios in 2100.
Next, De Ruijter Strategy drafted a set of Regional Delta Scenarios Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden, based on the thematic studies, existing literature and reports, interviews with experts, and workshops with stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. The result was published in January 2012.
The Regional Delta Scenarios do not only offer new insights to the stakeholders, but also offers points of reference for the extremely long term, which can be used in policy decisions on the shorter term. In the past two years the scenarios were used to tighten up the sub-programme’s problem analysis quantitatively and geographically. They were also used for the development and risk analysis of possible strategies.

Would you like to know more about this project? Please contact Jolanda van Heijningen at +31 20 625 02 14 or per mail: jolanda@deruijter.net