Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
16 May 2012
Research article |  | 16 May 2012

In search of robust flood risk management alternatives for the Netherlands

F. Klijn, J. M. Knoop, W. Ligtvoet, and M. J. P. Mens

Abstract. The Netherlands' policy for flood risk management is being revised in view of a sustainable development against a background of climate change, sea level rise and increasing socio-economic vulnerability to floods. This calls for a thorough policy analysis, which can only be adequate when there is agreement about the "framing" of the problem and about the strategic alternatives that should be taken into account.

In support of this framing, we performed an exploratory policy analysis, applying future climate and socio-economic scenarios to account for the autonomous development of flood risks, and defined a number of different strategic alternatives for flood risk management at the national level. These alternatives, ranging from flood protection by brute force to reduction of the vulnerability by spatial planning only, were compared with continuation of the current policy on a number of criteria, comprising costs, the reduction of fatality risk and economic risk, and their robustness in relation to uncertainties.

We found that a change of policy away from conventional embankments towards gaining control over the flooding process by making the embankments unbreachable is attractive. By thus influencing exposure to flooding, the fatality risk can be effectively reduced at even lower net societal costs than by continuation of the present policy or by raising the protection standards where cost-effective.