Water management

The Netherlands have a long history of water management. As a delta region for European rivers like the Rhine and the Meuse, the Dutch have always dealt with water related issues. This does not only limit to dealing with high water situations and floods, but also water distribution and water use during dry periods. It has also allowed the Dutch to exercise economic activities as shipping. Decades of research has resulted in a sound understanding of the water system dynamics, which fuelled hydrological and hydrodynamic models. These models are used to help predict how certain situations can develop of how to deal with crisis situations. Aided with governance and decision-making support tools, they help water managers do their work to collaboratively minimize or even prevent disaster events on the one hand, and enable society and nature to (keep) benefit from the water system and its services.
Internationally, the Netherlands are increasingly known for their water management knowledge and experience, to develop innovative, sustainable models and tools. This Dutch approach is being implemented in foreign situations all over the world to help deal with water related issues there, which is always tailor made.


The use of water for multiple societal and economic functions depends on decisions made about the distribution of the water on the national, regional and local scale. It also depends on the infrastructure of the current water system, possibilities for retention, priorities in use, and water safety issues.
High water quality (WFD) and dealin with new contaminants.
Smart water management requires an integrated and collaborative approach, which means a cultural change in the operational, strategic and management level.

R&I questions

  • Promising decision making processes, effective instruments or procedures and settings. Management scenario’s and decision making support tools. Systems control, costs of damage. Which criteria to use for decision making, for scenarios?
  • Developing a rapid assessment tool, that enables you to calculate the water level on national and regional scale multiple times a day. Thereby aiding operational management.
  • What measures can be taken to retain the water? How do these measures affect the water quality? What are potential effects of new substances and/or contaminants have on the ecosystem?
  • Export: how to make the best decision with respect to water management and the design of the water system, when data and money are scarce?
  • How to involve users to optimize water management? For example farmers.

Current programmes

Programme Smart Water management (water authority boards), Deltaprogramme Fresh water, Digital Delta, Waterindex agriculture and nature, IMPREX, WaterNexus.

New accents

  • (Real-time) data, information systems and models. Real-time control of pumping stations based on anticipations of the water level. Development of an automated system for (waste-) water management that takes in regard fluctuations in the energy market.
  • Fine tuning smart water management with regional water management. Link with ‘Water and Food’ cluster.
  • Relation between water management and groundwater table, the effects on housing foundations. Link with ‘Sustainable Delta Cities’ cluster.

Pilots/ experimental sites

Pilots Deltaprogramme Fresh water, Building with Nature river restoration, pilots progamme Smart Water management


2016: knowledge agenda and Community of Practice are being set up
2019: tangible results from multiple regional projects
2025: reduction of fresh water shortages and floods due to smart and sustainable water management. Operational water management is optimized


Namely technical products: data exchange, develop or combine hydrological models and IT systems. Future Weather scenarios. Governance and decision support tools operational by 2020.


Topsector Agri&Food and Topsector ICT