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National Water Plan 2016-2021


The National Water Plan describes the measures that must be taken to keep the Netherlands safe and habitable for current and future generations and to make the most of the opportunities that water has to offer. 

Application in MSP:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What are the policies relating to water use, on land in the Netherlands?
  • How does terrestrial water policy relate to marine policy in the Netherlands?
  • How can policies best be presented to guide marine planning?

Implementation Context

The new National Water Plan provides the broad outlines, principles and direction of the national water policy for the 2016 – 221 planning period, with a preview towards 2050. The Cabinet is responding proactively to anticipated changes in climate in the long term, in order to prevent flooding. The planning period will see realistic measures being implemented that address the challenges in the short term and leave sufficient options open for taking further steps in the longer term. The Cabinet ties in with the results of the delta Programme. The approach makes the Netherlands a pioneer and a leading example at a global level.

This National Water Plan is the Cabinet’s next step towards a robust and future-oriented design of our water system, aimed at effective protection against floods, at the prevention of pluvial flooding and drought, and at achieving good water quality and a healthy ecosystem as the basis for welfare and prosperity.

The National Water Plan 2016-2021 is the successor to the National Water Plan 2009-2015. Under the Water Act, the National Water Plan (NWP) also serves as a framework vision for the spatial aspects. The NWP is only binding to the central government. In the Netherlands, the central government is responsible for the main water system. The National Water Plan lays down the central government’s strategic goals for water management. The Management and Development Plan for the National Waters (abbreviated as Bprw in Dutch) by Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) outlines the conditions and measures for operational management to achieve these strategic goals. The NWP sets the framework for the Bprw. The Cabinet is asking the other government authorities to translate the NWP into their policy plans.

The policy for the North Sea is incorporated in the 2016-2021 North Sea Policy Document. This policy document forms an integral part of the National Water Plan and is included in appendix 2, which also describes the spatial aspects. The key points are included in this section. This section also includes the area-based elaborations for the Coast and Wadden Region on account of their close connection with the North Sea. For the entire North Sea coast the Cabinet aims to use sand replenishments where possible and pursue a permanent balance in the coastal foundation zone. In addition, the central government is listening to the wishes of regional authorities with respect to spatial development in the coastal foundation zone. On the Wadden Sea side of the islands and mainland coast, the strategy of dyke improvements currently in place is being consolidated.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Set out the policies relating to water use in the Netherlands, accounting for flood risk, climate change, water quality and a healthy ecosystem.
  • Identify strategic goals, milestones and actions to achieve these policies.
  • Clarify the relationship between terrestrial water policy and marine (North Sea) planning policy


Report compiled building on earlier policy documents and refined with regard to consultation responses and engagement.

Main Outputs / Results

Report available


This report applies to the Netherlands but is of broader interest particularly with regard to the integration between terrestrial and marine policy, and for cross-border issues in the North Sea.

Contact Person

Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy

P.o. box 20901 | 2500 EX The Hague, The Netherlands

Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Responsible Entity

Dutch Government: Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy

Costs / Funding Source

Dutch Government: Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy