Transatlantic Solutions to Sea Level Rise Adaptation:
Moving Beyond the Threat

October 30-31, 2013; Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Flood risks, flood prevention and insurance: practice and examples from The Netherlands

Karel Heynert and Laurens M. Bouwer
Deltares, Delft, The Netherlands
E-mail: karel.heynert at; laurens.bouwer at

Current design standards for flood prevention in The Netherlands were developed in the 1950s by the so-called Delta Committee. They were based on a risk analysis, where flood return periods and subsequent losses were assessed. The presentation will demonstrate how to date studies and analyses of the flood risks are being performed, that support the management of coastal and riverine flood risks.

New approaches are currently being tested in The Netherlands the design and evaluate the structural flood protection system, but also include the potential added value of non-structural measures like spatial planning to mitigate flood risks and planning and preparedness for emergency response. The probability of loss of life will likely feature more prominently in a new flood protection standard. These processes are part of the development of a new Delta Plan, for which initial decisions will be taken in 2014. However, given the high protection levels and the large numbers of people and capital present at flood prone areas, from a cost-benefit perspective, prevention will remain the most important risk mitigation strategy.

The above mentioned very high potential losses and extreme rarity of flooding due to failure of the flood protection system have until now prevented the development of a private insurance market in The Netherlands. Large-scale flood risks can be (partially) compensated under a national law. Flood risk in some specific cases can be insured. This relates in particular to local flooding due to heavy rainfall, and includes building and inventory insurance for households, and insurance of agricultural crops. This is not unique in Europe, where only few fully private and well developed flood insurance markets function. Most types of natural hazard and flood insurance systems in Europe exhibit at least some form – and often a large degree - of government involvement and uptake of risk.