Risk of flooding

Flooding is a real danger in the Netherlands because:

  • Large parts of our country are below sea level.
  • The Netherlands has a number of large rivers.
  • Our climate is changing, the sea level is rising and it rains more often and harder.

Water can come from all kinds of sources, from the sea or the major rivers and from inland waterways and lakes. A dike may subside, a dune may be swept away, or water may flow over the dikes.

An additional danger is the possibility of a power cut and all the problems that may lead to. These include, for example, not being able to make calls in emergency situations, people suffering from hypothermia because the heating no longer works, food and drink going off and unsafe situations in darkened streets.

Public health may also be jeopardised. As far as the government is concerned, this may be a reason to advise people to evacuate.

Study the areas which may end up flooding.

edited February 5th 2018


The chance of people dying in the event of a flood depends on:

  • the number of people who live in a particular area;
  • the predictability of high water levels;
  • the speed with which an area becomes flooded;
  • the speed with which people can be evacuated.

edited February 5th 2018


All government bodies – the central government, the provincial governments, the water boards, safety regions and municipalities – are working together to prevent flooding and to limit its consequences. Large parts of the Netherlands are protected against the water by barriers (dikes, dams, dunes and infrastructure like sluices and pumping stations). Rijkswaterstaat and the water boards are jointly responsible for maintaining and inspecting these barriers.

Municipalities are responsible for informing and warning the general public. Together with the emergency services (police, fire brigade and ambulance) government bodies regularly hold drills to practise what they have to do in the event of (imminent) flooding. Water levels are monitored continuously and this means that, in principle, there is time to take measures and sound the alarm.

Delta Programme

The government wants to protect the Netherlands against high water and ensure that sufficient fresh water is available now and in the future. The government also wants to organise our country in such a way that it becomes climate-proof and water-robust. This is being done within the framework of the Delta Programme.

A new approach to safety has been developed in the Delta Programme which is based on the risks of flooding and the consequences of a flood/dike breach.

An important element of this new approach is the multilayer safety principle which involves the government taking measures at three different levels at the same time. Measures from the first layer reduce the risk of a flood. These measures include raising and reinforcing dikes and other water barriers. Measures from the second layer reduce the consequences of a flood. Important provisions, such as an electricity generator, are built on the roof or another dry place. Floating homes are also included in this layer. Measures from the third layer are intended to improve disaster management in the event of a flood. This includes such things as disaster plans, crisis management and all kinds of evacuation options, along with corresponding communication strategies.

Flood Protection Programme [Hoogwaterbeschermingsprogramma]

An element of the Delta Programme is the Flood Protection Programme. Every 12 years the primary water barriers undergo a water safety assessment. This involves determining whether the barriers fulfil the legal standards of the Water Act [Waterwet]. The report of the most recent assessment was compiled in 2011. The report is used by Rijkswaterstaat and the water boards to plan and carry out maintenance work on those sections of the water barriers which are insufficiently safe.

edited February 5th 2018


You can already prepare for a flooding situation. The arrangements you need to make are:

  • Own an emergency pack.
  • Know addresses of places you can go to in the event of an emergency.
  • Know the routes showing how to get there.

Read more on the Risk Map or Will I get flooded out? about how you can prepare for a flood.

edited February 5th 2018