Are Dutch Water Safety Instructions Prepared for Climate Change?

Margo van den Brink, Catrien Termeer, Sander Meijerink
Created: 11/03/2020 -


For the water sector, adapting to the effects of climate change is a highly complex issue. Due to its geographical position, the Netherlands is vulnerable to sea level rise, increasing river discharges, and increasing salt intrusion. This paper deals with the question to what extent the historically grown Dutch water safety institutions have the capacity to cope with the ‘new’ challenges of climate change. The Adaptive Capacity Wheel provides the methodological framework. The analysis focuses on three recent and major planning practices in the Dutch water safety domain: the development and implementation of the Room for the River project, the flood risk approach, and the Second Delta Plan, respectively. The results show that Dutch water safety institutions do enable climate change adaptation, but only to a limited extent. They face four important institutional weaknesses that may cause risks in particular on the long term. The paper concludes that for the Netherlands, to be prepared for climate change, it is necessary to take a new institutional path, by building capacity to improvise, by investing in and by creating room for collaborative leaders, and by finding ways to generate financial resources for long term innovative measures. 

Published On


Adaptation Phase
National / Federal
Sector Addressed
Water Resources
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Design or reform institutions
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Sea level rise
Water quality
Water supply
Habitat/Biome Type