Economically Efficient Flood Protection


Protection against flooding is a vital issue in the Netherlands because 55% of the country is susceptible to flood risk. Each year the Dutch government spends roughly €1 billion on protection by dikes and dunes. In total, there are 3,500 kilometers of primary dikes in the Netherlands. The Dutch Delta Programme Commissioner won the 2013 Edelman Award with their work, "Economically Efficient Standards to Protect the Netherlands Against Flooding."

History has taught the importance of prevention: In 1953, the southwestern portion of the Netherlands was flooded, and 2,000 people lost their lives. The accompanying economic damage was enormous. In 1995, several areas around the Netherlands were again menaced by a forecast of flood waters, and 200,000 people were evacuated. Fortunately, no serious flooding occurred.

The Dutch Water Act sets down flood protection standards for all dike ring areas in the Netherlands. These standards range from 1/1,250 per year for dike ring areas along the upper part of the Rhine to 1/10,000 per year for the most important dike ring areas along the coast.

In 2008, the second Delta Committee advised the government to increase the protection standard of all dike ring areas by a factor 10. This committee also convinced officials about the urgency of action. A Delta Programme, chaired by the Delta Commissioner, was initiated to foster protection against high water and to keep freshwater supplies up to standard, now and in the future. It was also decided to update the protection standards in the Water Act by 2017. To form a scientific basis for the political decision process, Deltares was asked to determine economically efficient flood protection standards for all dike ring areas.

A cost–benefit model was developed to derive the optimal investment strategy for each dike ring area. In this strategy, the total long-term social costs, consisting of the investment costs for heightening dikes and the expected loss by flooding, are minimized, taking into account the dynamic effects of climate change and socioeconomic growth. State-of-the-art mixed integer nonlinear programming techniques were used to find optimal strategies for all 53 dike ring areas in the Netherlands.

Why Should You Apply for the Edelman Award?

Competing for the Edelman award places you and your company among the upper echelons of those within the O.R. and Analytics fields today. 

Click here to Learn More

The conclusion was that, from an economic point of view, it was not necessary to increase protection standards for all dike ring areas by 10 times. The current protection standards were acceptable, except for three regions: areas along the Rhine and Meuse rivers, the southern part of Flevoland, and two areas near Rotterdam. Economically efficient flood protection standards for these three areas have been established.

The final results have been discussed in the House of Parliament and in several committees and organizations. In 2012, the state secretary accepted the recommendations as the basis for policy planning. The final protection standards will gain force of law in 2017.

The operations research approach not only played a crucial role in finalizing the political discussion about determining the right flood protection standards, it also resulted in a significant increase in protection for these regions, where two-thirds of the benefits of improvements are concentrated. These O.R. methods saved €8 billion in investment costs as well.

Watch Video of the Dutch Delta Team 2013 Edelman Presentation