Climate adaptation

Rijkswaterstaat plays a key role in addressing climate challenges in the Netherlands. One of the priorities is protecting the Netherlands’ vulnerable low-lying regions. To achieve this, Rijkswaterstaat is spearheading climate adaptation initiatives to ensure resilience against rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Key projects, such as bolstering dikes and creating room for rivers, epitomise its commitment. We work with European partners to develop innovative adaptation strategies, incorporating both natural and engineered solutions. As a knowledge-driven entity, we share our insights internationally, highlighting the importance of cooperation in combatting the ongoing threat of climate change.

Climate adaptation requires an integrated transition approach

The role of Rijkswaterstaat in water management is expanding due to evolving climate-related challenges. These include rising sea levels and erratic river flows, intense rainfall and changing wind patterns. However, climate adaptation goes beyond just water issues. 

It involves broader transitions, such as energy shifts and agricultural changes triggered by the nitrogen debate, all impacting nature. The Netherlands is on a transformative crossroad, necessitating an integrated approach to multiple challenges. 

The reconstruction of infrastructure and systems, both urban and rural, must be carried out with precision to ensure all transitions are addressed simultaneously. Indeed, as the country rebuilds, it is vital to get it right the first time.

Localised solutions: Rijkswaterstaat’s collaborative approach to climate adaptation

Rijkswaterstaat’s approach to climate adaptation is grounded in collaboration and understanding local conditions. Recognising that mitigation is a global issue, Rijkswaterstaat believes that adaptation provides localised solutions tailored to each nation’s unique context.

Through the DELTA programme and a multi-level governance model, we foster inter-governmental cooperation. The Room for the River project in Nijmegen serves as a testament to this approach, where collaboration with local authorities ensured solutions attuned to local needs.

This tradition, though demanding, embodies Rijkswaterstaat’s dedication to effective climate adaptation.

225 Years Rijkswaterstaat: The Netherlands shaped for the future

In 2023, Rijkswaterstaat celebrated its 225th anniversary. The theme of this celebration was climate adaptation. In this video you will find a brief look back on 225 years of Rijkswaterstaat, but above all a look ahead: how do we deal with climate change? What knowledge and who do we need for this?

Logo: 225 years Rijkswaterstaat. The Netherlands shaped for the future.   [DRAMATIC MUSIC]   (Water flows swirling through the river. Traffic moves steadily over a bridge and a boat sails quietly over an aqueduct. A dike stops the rising water.)   VOICE-OVER: "The Netherlands has been living with water intensively since its earliest history. For us, it's a source of great wealth and opportunity that simultaneously poses risks and carries a continuous reason to act. This conflicting mission dealing with both the promise and the threat of the water, laid the ground for the creation of Rijkswaterstaat 225 years ago. Let us trace the journey we've made in collaboration with our partners around the world and the collective journey we see ahead of us."   (A boat sails on a river, the typical Dutch environment transforms into an old drawing of a flooded Dutch landscape.)   VOICE-OVER: "For hundreds of years, the management of waterways in the Netherlands was in the hands of regional water authorities and many local authorities. But in 1798, the hydrological engineer Christiaan Brunings, laid the foundation for the national organisation that we know today as Rijkswaterstaat. In 1953, the power of the sea asserted itself at its darkest as the massive waters breached the dikes and flooded large parts of the country. This disaster also created a new impulse for Rijkswaterstaat to work more closely with its partners in the world. A collaborative effort that saw its culmination in 1986 with the completion of the Delta Works. Since the 1970s thinking about water management began to change, however. In addition to successfully keeping water out and draining it away the importance of retaining bodies of water and of managing natural resources sustainably started to gain understanding. After the year 2000, this came to involve concepts such as wind energy and creating room for our rivers. It created new priorities and projects at Rijkswaterstaat as well as new international collaborations." "Today, the Netherlands is one of the best protected river delta and coastal areas in the world. But the climate is changing at an alarming pace. Drought, cluster rains, rising sea levels more extreme than we've seen before. What is the impact on our safety? Challenges for the shipping industry and road traffic? How do we deal with these challenges when we can no longer only rely on existing models?"   "This requires choices based on well-founded knowledge at both the European and the Intercontinental level." (An animation of the world map pops up. It zooms in on the Rhine catchment area.)   Speaker: Helmut Habersack. President of the international Commission for the Hydrology of the Rhine Basin (CHR)   "So we from the CHR perspective identified three major issues to work on for the coming years. Number one is climate change itself. How is the discharge changing? For example, if the glaciers are melting, if it's getting warmer. The second point is the social economics. Who gets the water at the end of the day? The third one is sediment and sediment management. For example, the Netherlands sit on the delta of the Rhine. Now, if you get -70% of the fine material into the marine environment this also leads to the need for action."   [UPLIFTING MUSIC] (The animation zooms in on a map of the United States.)   Speaker: Katy Maher. Environmental Protection Specialist at Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)   "Through the bipartisan infrastructure law we are providing over $9 billion dollar to help communities build more resilient transportation infrastructure through the PROTECT program. This funding, along with our efforts to provide tools and guidance will help us make more meaningful progress to address the climate crisis and meet our goal of more resilient transportation infrastructure."   (The animation zooms in on a map of the United Kingdom.) Speaker: Andy Batchelor. Operations Manager – Thames Tidal Defences   "I’m really proud of the information that we've shared across all of our networks to ensure that the operation and maintenance of barriers like you can see behind me really carry on and protect the people and property."   (The animation zooms in on a map of the Netherlands.) Speaker: Meike van Ginneken. Water Envoy for the Kingdom of the Netherlands   "The Netherlands is a water country. We have a lot of water knowhow that we want to share with the world. Obtaining water security is urgent. By 2030, water demand will outstrip water supply by 40% worldwide. So let's work together. Let's learn together. And let knowhow flow like water."   LOGO: Rijkswaterstaat Ministry of infrastructure and Water Management   Screen text: More information? Check:   A Rijkswaterstaat production, copyright 2023


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