Room for the River

The Netherlands is vulnerable to flooding. Not just from the sea but from our rivers too. They have to cope with high water levels more frequently. For that reason, we need to give the rivers more space, so that they can safely discharge the water flowing through them. This is how the Netherlands are addressing the issue of safety in and around their rivers.

More rainwater and meltwater

Extreme water levels demanded a new approach to tackling high levels. The rivers distribute the water over the low-lying areas of the Netherlands and, in some cases, discharge it into the North Sea and the IJsselmeer. Climate change means that there are more frequent occurrences of peaks in rainwater and meltwater which cause a rise in the river levels.

Since the high water levels recorded in the 1990s, the Netherlands have changed their approach. They give the rivers more room, rather than just strengthening and raising the dykes. This approach is clearly visible in the (completed) Room for the River and Maaswerken programmes.

New approach to high water levels in rivers

Extremely high water levels in the 1990s in the Netherlands caused many problems and resulted in ‘Room for the River’ being adopted as the new starting point for how to tackle high water levels in and around our rivers. This was not restricted to the since completed Room for the River and Maaswerken programmes. Even today, apart from making the dykes more effective, we give our rivers more room. This means that we can store and discharge more river water and, at the same time, adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Measures in and around rivers

Each river needs its own solution. There are many ways to give rivers more room (see below). The Measures in and around rivers page lists all the methods that we have used in the context of the Room for the River and Maaswerken programmes, methods the Netherlands still use today.

Water safety and quality of the environment

More room for rivers also means a change in the land use around rivers. It not only delivers greater water safety, but also new natural and recreational areas. In other words, an attractive environment for both people and animals. But sometimes a price has to be paid. In the event of depoldering or the relocation of dykes, people and businesses may be forced to move in order to give more room to the river.

International interest

The Dutch approach has attracted a lot of international interest. Their knowledge and experience in widening watercourses and the close collaboration with residents and others do not go unnoticed abroad. This also leads to international collaborative partnerships in which this knowledge can be shared.

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