Hotspot Major rivers

Climate change provides a new challenge for water management in the large Dutch rivers. In the Rhine and Meuse basins an increase in precipitation and evaporation is expected, resulting in both increased river flow during the winter and an increase of dry conditions during the summer. A higher risk of both flooding and drought is not only an issue in the lower-lying areas of the Netherlands, but in the higher areas as well. In the absence of additional measures, urban development would continue close to the rivers, which can result in a reduction of the discharge capacity of the river system as a whole. 

The Dutch government already implemented new protective measures within the following programmes: ‘Water Management in the 21st Century’ (Waterbeheer 21ste eeuw), ‘Room for the River’ (Ruimte voor de Rivier) and ‘Flood Risk and Safety in the Netherlands’ (Veiligheid Nederland in Kaart). These programmes have mostly worked with safety norms based on the weather extremes of the past. It is expected that the proposed measures are implemented by 2015 at the latest, but by then safety levels in a number of dyked areas will still be lower than current statutory standards.

Large areas of low-lying Germany will be flooded more frequently as well, so it can be assumed that Germany will also adjust its standards in order to protect its population and assets against high water levels. This could reduce the space for water in Germany and thus lead to a faster discharge of water to the Netherlands. The Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management therefore initiated the ‘Attention for Safety' (Aandacht Voor Veiligheid) research project, to investigate which additional measures would be necessary in the long term.

The objective for this Hotspot was to develop knowledge regarding water safety and climate adaptation for three case studies in the areas surrounding the major Dutch rivers. The objectives per case study were:

    • Biesbosch-Haringvliet: clarify what climate change will mean for the Biesbosch, Haringvliet and the surrounding areas
    • Betuwe-Lower Rhine: investigate to what extent it is possible to implement measures further upstream in the German Lower Rhine area in order to reduce flooding in the Netherlands
    • Kampen/IJssel delta: assess the potential of deepening the main river channel, bypass and master plan for the Kampen/IJssel delta, in the light of climate change

The themes addressed in the case studies were:

    1. What are the most important changes in average climate and climatic extremes and what influence do these changes have on the various functions in these areas?
    2. What is the influence of other long term trends, i.e. socio-economic and administrative changes and spatial planning?
    3. What are the risks resulting from future developments?
    4. Which investments are vulnerable, what is the potential damage and how can investments be made climate proof?

Midterm Assessment 2012 (webpage)
Midterm Review Report: Harold van Waveren (Rijkswaterstaat Waterdienst) (2012). Hotspot Major Rivers, Midterm Assessment 2012, KfC report number 68/2012.

Projects and Publications
List with all Major rivers publications.

Read more about HSGR02 

HSGR02: Assessment of upstream flood risk in the Rhine Basin
The Rhine basin is a densely populated river basin and economically the most important river in Western Europe. Currently, more than 10 million people are living in flood-prone areas, especially in the upstream German section of the river Rhine (ICPR, 2001). Flood risk is expected to increase, due to climate change and socio-economic development in flood-prone areas. This required a better... read more

Read more about HSGR06

HSGR06: Adaptation to Meuse flood risk
In 1993 and 1995 the Meuse overflowed its banks, leading to extensive flood damage in the south of the Netherlands. Due to climate change, the frequency of high-flows is expected to increase in the future. The potential damage of such floods is estimated to increase due to socioeconomic developments in flood-prone areas... read more

Read more about HSGR07

HSGR07: Assessment of climate-proof flood defence alternatives along the Nederrijn/Lek
Because of climate change, as well as various other changes, the boundary conditions for flood defences may be subject to change in the future. This project therefore assessed, at various levels of detail, climate-proof flood defence alternatives for three locations along the Nederrijn/Lek that did not meet the... read more

Read more about HSRR07/HSGR08

HSRR07/HSGR08: Relationship between perceived flood risks, problem ownership and household and business adaptation choices
The project focused on climate-related flood safety issues in a spatial planning context. It investigated the relationship between flood risk perception, problem ownership and household and business adaptation choices (i.e. impacts on the more

HSGR3.3:Transboundary Aspects of Water Safety
Assessment of the state of the art of cross-border cooperation on water safety in the Rhine and Meuse catchments. This study described the existing cross-border organisations dealing with water management issues at various governmental levels more