Barriers of integrated flood risk management

Integrated flood risk management requires a change in mindset to step out of the traditional way of thinking about flood protection. Moreover, it enhances the complexity of management approaches and therefore multiple barriers are currently encountered during the implementation. 

Lacking system approach 

Currently, effective governance arrangements and collaboration between different water authorities are sometimes lacking. This can complicate decision-making processes and the implementation of measures. Such institutional fragmentation of responsibilities will further manifest when integrated flood risk management is implemented. Innovative measures need to be implemented with applicable legislation and integrated or coordinated with other land-use functions in project areas, such as housing or business which often relates to private property and nature conservation. This inhibits the development of long-term strategies on a larger spatial scale, whereas the technical possibilities for upscaling are often already there. Furthermore, diversification of strategies cannot be implemented without aligning them by developing well-functioning coordination mechanisms. 

Increasing costs  

Limited financing 

Since integrated physical measures are dynamic and serve multiple purposes, their functioning is often not yet fully known and their implementation usually requires more space and time than traditional dike reinforcements. Although it is increasingly acknowledged that integrated measures are beneficial in the long term, the current Dutch water protection programme still mainly provides funding for ‘sober and efficient’ measures like dike reinforcement. 

Liability and compensation after floods 

Responsibility in flood risk management is bound to liability for impairments, meaning that in case of dike failure, the responsible authority may bear the costs for damage. “As a result, traditional dike reinforcements get funded more easily and present a safer choice for water authorities to protect against flooding in the short term than innovative, integral measures”, notes Willemijn van Doorn-Hoekveld, researcher in public, water and liability law. 

Low public awareness 

Despite the long-standing tradition of flood protection in the Rhine-Meuse delta, awareness of flood risk is limited to the responsible institutions, whereas citizens usually rely on the expertise of the authorities. This results in a generally low level of public preparedness which could be problematic as the low-lying parts of the country are amongst the most densely populated areas and still growing.

With an interdisciplinary approach, researchers at the Water, Climate and Future Deltas hub explore the barriers and opportunities for integrated flood risk management in the Rhine-Meuse delta and other deltas worldwide.

Integrated flood risk management in practice
Global perspective
Future challenges
Interdisciplinary research group