The Netherlands’ ‘Room for the River’ programme is recognised worldwide as an example of successful river rehabilitation. With the risk of flooding events rising due to climate change, understanding which interventions can lead to beneficial integrated flood-risk management is vital. This study analyses the mix of interventions (policy instruments) used in Room for the River projects — from contract start to construction finish — to learn from this example.

Integrated flood-risk management combines traditional flood defence measures (such as building or strengthening dykes) with measures that create more space to accommodate the water (such as dyke relocation or reactivating flood plains), while also considering their impacts upon the quality of land functions such as housing, nature conservation, and recreation. The European Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) requires EU Member States to create flood-risk management plans and review these every six years. The second flood-risk management plans are due to be prepared by EU Member States by the end of 20211 . In the Netherlands much experience with integrated flood risk management has been gained from the ‘Room for the River programme’ (2007-2018). This programme brought together national, provincial, municipal and regional water authorities to establish 34 projects along the river Rhine and its branches, with the aims of a) increasing the river’s capacity to cope with higher flood levels; and b) the measures implemented to increase safety will also improve the overall environmental quality of the river region (‘spatial quality’, a more informal metric that defines the quality of the river’s physical space and immediate surroundings in terms of the quality of the river’s physical space and immediate surroundings in terms of functionality, aesthetic appeal, and other factors that can be difficult to assess quantitatively).

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