Water Agenda and Water Discussion Map assist district water boards in new way of working

How can district water boards contribute to addressing such major societal taskings as climate adaptation and the energy transition? And how can they do so under the Environment Act that will take effect in 2022? In response to these questions, the Hoogheemraadschap Stichtse Rijnlanden (HDSR) water control board has developed a Water Agenda and a Water Discussion Map. The Agenda and the Map assist district water boards in contributing ideas regarding water issues in municipal and provincial environmental visions.

What will change under the Environment Act?

Currently, the Netherlands features 26 Acts pertaining to the physical living environment. With effect from 2022, they will be replaced with a single Environment Act. Under this Act, all policies and plans relating to the physical living environment will be assembled into municipal environmental visions and plans, i.e., including the plans and policies regarding water issues. This means that the district water boards will need to change their way of working and that they will need to adopt a different approach in their collaboration with provinces, municipalities, and other parties involved.

What will the new way of working look like?

But what will this new way of working look like? To provide more insight, HDSR and the Vallei en Veluwe district water board have requested Erasmus University to evaluate a number of relevant pilot projects. This has generated the Guidelines for collaboration on integrated environmental visions regarding water issues. The information contained in these Guidelines has been used to draw up a “Water Agenda”.

Water Agenda

The Water Agenda shows how district water boards can contribute to addressing such broad societal taskings as climate adaptation and the energy transition. The Agenda serves as a basis for HDSR to provide input to municipalities and provinces regarding water issues in the environmental visions. One of the insights from the guidelines is that district water boards must look beyond the water issues. As a result, the Water Agenda features a range of integrated solutions, i.e., solutions that tackle multiple issues or contribute to multiple goals. An example of such an integrated solution is the innovative peat grassland area regional perspective. Peat oxidation causes soil subsidence and CO2 emissions in peat grassland areas. This peat oxidation can be combated by raising the water-table. The regional perspective features ideas that go well with wet soils, such as wet crop cultivation, floating houses, and solar cells. This makes it easier for HDSR to introduce water issues in the environmental visions and plans.

How has the Water Agenda been drawn up?

The Water Agenda has been drawn up using input from the HDSR programme managers, environment managers, and regional managers. In several workshop sessions, the first version of the Water Agenda has been reviewed with the province of Utrecht, the municipalities, and such parties as Rijkswaterstaat [the executive branch of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management], Vitens water company, the community health services, and Utrecht Security Region. Eventually, the Executive Board endorsed both the Water Agenda and the Water Discussion Map.

Water Discussion Map

The Water Agenda has been elaborated into the Water Discussion Map (jpg, 8.1 MB). This map concretises the topic of water even further. The map shows the opportunities and limitations in terms of water and the climate, without setting out exactly what measures need to be taken. The Water Agenda and the Discussion Map help HDSR, along with other parties, to contribute to the environmental visions.

Have the Agenda and the Map already been used?

HDSR has already used the Water Agenda and the Water Discussion Map several times: to provide input for the provincial environmental vision, the municipal environmental visions, and within the context of such regional processes as the Spatial Economic Programme of the U16 partnership.

Furthermore, HDSR has assisted in drawing up the environmental vision of the province of Utrecht. In addition, four district water boards in the province of Utrecht, three drinking water companies, and Rijkswaterstaat Central Netherlands have joined forces to coordinate the presentation of water issues in the provincial environmental vision.

Lessons to be learned

Expressing water taskings and solutions in hectares appears to be cumbersome, whereas, in fact, spatial planning requires such concretisation. Indicating the taskings and solutions on the map fosters the discussion.

Contact person

Beke Romp
Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden

Project type
Adaptation plan/strategy
Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden
Drought, Heat, Urban flooding, Waterlogging