Vital and vulnerable functions

In view of their particular importance, certain processes and functions have been termed “vital and vulnerable functions”. Failure or interruption of such functions will lead to serious social disruption and jeopardises national security. Examples are the power grid and the drinking water system. The Delta Programme focuses special attention on several of these vital and vulnerable functions.

This category comprises a total of thirteen functions that are crucial in the purview of disaster management during a flood, or that – in the event of failure as a result of flooding – will cause serious damage in terms of people, the environment or the economy.

Vital and vulnerable functions
Energy: (a) electricity; (b) natural gas, (c) oil
Telecom/IT: (a) basic communication facilities in the purview of flood response; (b) public network
Water chain: (a) drinking water; (b) waste water
Dams, dykes, and surface water management: pumping stations
Transport: main infrastructure
Chemical and Nuclear: (a) chemical industry; (b) nuclear industry; (c) Infectious substances / Genetically modified organisms

The Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation sets out that the national government must ensure that the flood protection level of such functions must be improved by no later than 2050. This can only be accomplished by first gaining insight into the vulnerability of the functions and into their chain interdependency.

Regional pilots

Regional pilots have been conducted to amass experience with vital and vulnerable functions in relation to flooding. Pilots carried out in the Botlek, Westpoort, IJsselvecht delta, and Zeeland areas produced some key questions: how do we ensure that we gain an area-level picture of the risks, including the chain effects, and how do we accomplish that parties can contribute to risk containment on the basis of their own authority and responsibilities?

To find answers to these questions, in 2019 two new pilots were conducted in the provinces of Limburg and Gelderland. In these pilots, the Flood Risks Impact Analyses conducted by the Security Regions were linked to the climate stress tests and risk dialogues conducted by local and regional governments. One conclusion is that it is important for the governments collectively to contact the (grid) managers of vital and vulnerable functions in their region. Furthermore, it was found that the managers of utility companies (electricity, gas, telecom) would prefer to be contacted separately for each function, on account of the confidentiality of geo data. By setting up individual, tailored sessions to provide each utility company with detailed (flood) information, managers can indicate which areas are stricken by failure, without having to share geo information.

Other climate threats too

The vulnerability of vital functions extends beyond flooding from the main water system (the ocean and the major rivers). Flooding from the regional water system and along undyked rivers and brooks also poses a risk, as do extreme drought and heat. Regional governments are exploring all the climate threats affecting their specific areas, in stress tests and risk dialogues. Water risk profiles have been developed for the assessment of flood risks. One such example can be viewed here.

Advisory report regarding national approach

In 2019, an advisory report was published, entitled Ingrediënten voor de nationale aanpak V&K. In November, this report prompted the authorities to decide to adopt a more tailored approach, specifically geared to each particular function. Action is not always logically incumbent upon the central government and many efforts are already being expended at the regional level. Depending on the function, a Ministry, a province, a district water board, or a municipality will be organising meetings with managers of functions, through sector organisations or umbrella organisations. Such meetings are intended to gain insight into vulnerabilities, to be used as input for local and regional risk dialogues. A strategy to this end will be collectively developed in the first half of 2020. The conclusions from the advisory report will also be incorporated in the review of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation, a component of Delta Programme 2021.

Click here for the fifth progress report on the Approach to National Vital and Vulnerable Functions.