Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Adapting flood risk management in the Rhine Meuse delta (Rotterdam, the Netherlands)


The Climate Challenge

The Rhine Meuse delta in the Netherlands is the location of Rotterdam, a populous port city of enormous economic significance. Climate change projections suggest sea level rise and increasing flood risks. Such impacts would cause more frequent closures of the storm surge barrier and limit shipping traffic, with due economic effects. Altered river discharges due to increasing precipitation and melting water from the Alps will affect the closing regime of the storm surge barrier and lead to a decrease of discharges due to drought, which may hamper inland shipping and increase concentrations of pollutants and salinity. However, the main impact is an increase in flood risk due to higher peak discharges.


The Adaptation Response

This case reflects on the Deltaprogramme Rijnmond-Drechtsteden, which handled the long term flood risk management strategies for the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and its surrounding area. The case Rotterdam falls under the umbrella of the nationwide Deltaprogramme, whose objectives are to (a) update protection standards to include both climate change scenarios and increased population and economic value protected for floods, and (b) assess measures as to their most optimal balance for the long term protection of the Rotterdam area in view of rising sea levels and more high and low extremes in river discharge.


The People and Institutions Involved

Participation involved governmental layers, principal stakeholder groups and members of the scientific community. On a regional scale the governmental actors that enable implementation of the adaptation measures are provinces and water boards. Civil actors were involved via a societal advisory board consisting out of 11 members, each representing a different stake and including all major economic sectors, and advising the steering board of the Rijnmond-Drechtsteden. Twice a year a large stakeholder meeting was held to both inform stakeholders and receive input for the strategizing process. While participation via delegates was very much present, the inclusion of direct citizen involvement was missing.


The Outcome of Action

Some of the specific solutions and actions planned or in the process of implementation are innovative dike improvements throughout the area; continued nourishment at the seaward side of Rotterdam; project studies and disaster risk management for the Maeslant storm surge barrier; and using the widened river as a tidal park.



Deltares: Ad B.M. Jeuken,

Wageningen UR: Mark Zandvoort,


Relevant Links


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


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