This section presents the institutional arrangements governing pre-emptive FRM and post-event recovery for fluvial, coastal and pluvial flooding and how these practices create different distributive justice outcomes. A key distinction is made between the highly protected areas of the Netherlands and unembanked areas which receive lower, or no, governmental flood protection. A second distinction is the extent to which flood types are treated differently within Dutch FRM, highlighting where burdens are carried within a national solidarity arrangement or by individuals.
Fluvial and coastal FRM: who benefits and who carries the burdens
Pre-emptive FRM: Managing fluvial and coastal flooding using defence structures
In the Netherlands, FRM is the statutory responsibility of the state, which is accountable to ensure the habitability of the country as stipulated in the constitution (Van Rijswick and Havekes 2012). In other words, the states’ role as provider of safety, in egalitarian terms, is highly institutionalised. Specialised national and regional governmental authorities have traditionally constructed, managed and maintained primary flood defence structures. The Rijkswaterstaat, the policy-implementing agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, and regional water authorities (established in the Middle Ages and of which there were 23 in 2015) are principally responsible for managing coastal and fluvial flood risk. As a consequence of this long-held high state involvement, citizens’ awareness of flood risk is generally described as low (e.g. OECD, 2014).
Primary flood defences need to fulfil national legal safety standards of a minimum return interval of up to 1 in 10,000 years along the coast and 1 in 1250 years along rivers (Van Rijswick and Havekes 2012). These standards are based on a crude cost–benefit analysis of the economically most important part of the country (dike ring 14) undertaken by the first Delta Committee following the 1953 flood disaster (Van Danzig 1956; Van der Most et al. 2010). The results were translated into protection standards for the primary flood defences and subsequently extrapolated to the rest of the Netherlands (Klijn et al. 2012: 183). The use of cost–benefit analysis implies a utilitarian approach to the allocation of protection measures; one might argue that it was not as purely applied as in other countries as it was utilised not to select between options, but to identify protection standards to avoid most damages.
The Delta Programme initiated in 2012 developed new safety standards. These are based upon the provision of a minimal safety level for embanked areas, i.e. a mortality probability of 1 in 100,000 per year. This arrangement implies an egalitarian justice principle, or to be more precise, a ‘sufficientarianFootnote 2’ justice principle: the state provides a level of protection so that every citizen enjoys a ‘sufficient’ minimum threshold. Societal cost–benefit analysis compares different management measures (i.e. not only defences are considered but also, for example, provision for evacuation) and their benefit to the collective. These safety standards are used to identify the protection standards for the primary defences. Safety standards can be increased in areas with high potential economic damages, with high population density or where essential infrastructure is located (I&M and EZ 2014: 154). Here, the aim is to ensure highest utility for the majority; thus, in addition to the egalitarian characteristics, also utilitarian justice principles are present.
In addition to the ca. 3000 km of primary flood defence structures, there are also around 14,000 km of regional flood defences within embanked areas, which provide protection along smaller watercourses (such as the Mark, Lek, Dommel), drainage channels, etc. (Van Rijswick and Havekes 2012). Provinces, in cooperation with regional water authorities, stipulate land use-based safety standards for regional defences: for urban areas, the nationally suggested inundation frequency is 1 in 100 years, and for agricultural areas, it is 1 in 50 years (V&W 1998; Rijksoverheid et al. 2003). Regional standards are lower than for primary defences, since the risk (water depth, velocity, etc.) is generally considered to be lower (STOWA 2004: 10). FRM of this ‘localised’ risk is not institutionalised on the central level, and standards of protection are not equalised across the country, even though steps are undertaken to make the protection more nationally coherent (V&W 1998; UvW and IPO 2004). In this case, a utilitarian approach to justice is evident, since the norms are principally based on the economic value of the areas being protected (compare also Boezeman 2015), but due to the flexibility afforded, provinces may decide to provide equal protection standards (e.g. Groningen; see Keessen et al. 2016).
Resourcing Dutch FRM: Who pays?
When considering the balance of burdens and benefits of FRM, it is fundamental to analyse resourcing, particularly in the context of substantially increasing costs (Penning-Rowsell and Pardoe 2014). The main investors in fluvial and coastal FRM are the national government and regional water authorities. Data indicate that during the period 2001 to 2014, the costs of FRM have nearly tripled. In 2001, national investments in primary defences were reported to be ca. €400 million; this increased to €800 million in 2009 (V&W 2010: 55) and to over €1 billion in 2014 (I&M 2015: 98). Investment increases might be attributed to improvements resulting from the periodical assessment rounds for primary and regional flood defence structures, which identified that 20 to 30% of assessed structures did not fulfil the legally required standards (Inspectie Verkeer en Waterstaat 2011). Furthermore, in 2012 the Delta Fund was established to finance proactive climate adaptation which corresponds to further spending increases (I&M 2015).
In line with the egalitarian understanding of justice, all taxpaying citizens contribute to fluvial and coastal flood protection through primary flood defences. In 2014, the Dutch national income was around 250 billion (Tweede Kamer 2014); of this, less than 1% (~0.4%) was invested in FRM. The main contributions, around 89%, were made by taxpaying households and the rest by businesses (Twynstra Gudde 2015: 30). Taking an average of 2.2 citizens per household (CBS 2015), an average annual household contribution was €100. However, tax contributions vary by income and family situation and, as such, citizens with a higher economic wealth will contribute more. Importantly, individual flood probability is not explicitly considered when calculating national taxpayers’ contributions to FRM, i.e. those at higher risk or defended to a higher standard do not contribute more. It is also necessary to consider household characteristics in flood risk areas. For example, in 2005 the average income in the highly flood-prone (and protected) western provinces was 8% higher than the national average (CBS 2007). This means these citizens will have contributed more to the tax income. Unintentionally, this correlates with their generally higher flood probability and their higher benefit from FRM.
Similar to national investments, the contributions of regional water authorities have also increased in recent years. In 2015, water authorities spent 37% of their budget (i.e. €480 million) on flood defences (Dekking 2015: 10) in comparison with 28% (€268 million) in 2013 (UvW 2014: 44). This almost doubling of FRM spending can be related to the decentralisation of financing. The costs for maintenance and the operation of primary flood defences are no longer subsidised by the national government (interview: regional water authority). Regional water authorities contribute to dike strengthening through the Flood Protection Programme (HWBP, Hoogwaterbeschermingsprogramma) which modifies primary flood defences that do not fulfil the legal safety norms (UvW 2014: 44). It foresees a co-financing arrangement consisting of: 50% contribution from national tax revenues; 40% contribution from the collective of all regional water authorities (including contributions from authorities without primary defences, i.e. areas that will never directly benefit); and 10% contribution from the specific regional water authority that carries out the FRM task as a so-called efficiency incentive (UvW et al. 2011). The contributions of regional water authorities to primary flood defences are calculated based on the total number of households and the economic value (indicated through the WOZ-valueFootnote 3) of an area (Hoeben 2011a: 8). Therefore, regional water authorities with a high economic capacity will contribute more to FRM. Importantly, the probability of flooding or the length of primary defence structures is not directly considered when calculating each authority’s contribution to the programme. Therefore, excluding the 10% efficiency incentive, even though there is a trend for income to be generated more regionally, egalitarian principles dominate where costs are spread widely across regions.
Parallel to the national situation, regional water authorities generate their income via taxation. The Water System Tax (watersysteemheffing) partially covers the maintenance and management costs of primary flood defences, and nearly the full costs of construction, maintenance and management of regional flood defence structuresFootnote 4 (as well as for other water management tasks). The exact allocation of taxes for each task remains unclear. Four categories of taxpaying users are distinguished: households, i.e. citizens residing in an area; property owners, i.e. individuals (citizens and businesses) owning a property; land owners, i.e. mainly farmers or owners of undeveloped land; and nature conservation organisations that manage nature areas. The tax contribution is based on the interest-pay-say principle: the higher the ‘considered’ interest in the management task per category of user, the higher the financial contribution. Population density is seen as an indicator to evaluate the ‘interest’ of households, since in highly urbanised areas, this group benefits most from the work of the water authority. The remaining costs are split across the other three users, whose tariff is based on the economic value of the properties or land, i.e. users with a higher damage potential contribute more (Hoeben 2011b), yet there is no direct link between the contribution and flood probability.
Between regions, the exact contributions differ per category of user. In 2014, property owners (49%) and households (39%) contribute on average proportionally more than land owners (11%) and nature managers (1%) (I&M 2015: 98). The rationale behind this distribution is complex, and several reasons have been proposed. Regional water authorities and farmer interest groups argue it is because urban water management has increased due to ongoing urbanisation and costs are primarily allocated to households as they are seen to benefit most (interview: regional water authority). Other actors, such as citizen interest groups, stress the influence of farmer interest groups in lobbying for greater cross-subsidisation from households to prevent their costs increasing (interview: researcher). Either way, the average annual increase in costs for households from 1998 to 2010 was 7%, for property owners 5.5% from 2000 to 2010, and for land owners, the tariff decreased annually by 0.1% from 1998 to 2010 (Hoeben 2010: 105f). From 2014 to 2015, the average increase in tariffs was: 3.3% for households, 3.4% for property owners and 3.1% for land owners (Allers et al. 2015: 13). Thus, different social categories are treated differently, whereby the differences in contributions cannot explicitly be linked to the flood risk.
Adding to these distributional effects are the differences evident between regional water authorities. These differences do reflect, to some degree, the probability of flooding for collective groups. Households and property owners in the west, with a higher probability of flooding, pay a higher tariff than in the east, with a lower probability. In the east, the average costs to households for flood and water management was around €50/per year in 2015, with property owners (average property value of €211,000) paying an additional ca. €60. In the West, these values are approximately one-third to one-half higher (dataset from COELO). That implies that citizens in areas with a higher flood probability do contribute slightly more to financing FRM, which aligns to some degree with a beneficiary pays understanding. But this is at a collective level, rather than the direct relation of tariffs to individual flood risk probabilities.
Comparatively, recovery from fluvial and coastal flooding in the Netherlands is considered to be secondary to the high prevention focus. In 1998, the Calamities Compensation Act (CCA, Wet tegemoetkoming schade bij rampen en zware ongevallen) was set up to provide post-event compensation. It is solidarity based and aligns to egalitarian or Rawlsian maximin rule principles. The act is mainly applicable for compensation of damages from freshwater flooding in embanked areas, when an event is declared a disaster, and when no other compensation (e.g. liability) or insurance is available. This implies that citizens affected by coastal (saltwater) flooding, pluvial flooding or citizens living in unembanked areas should not (formally) receive equal governmental support for recovery as citizens affected by fluvial flooding. Therefore, those not covered would be individually responsible for their recovery, implying an elitist justice principle (i.e. those outcomes will be better for those who are wealthier or who can afford to access insurance products via the market (libertarian)). However, the lack of widely available coastal and fluvial flood insurance (at affordable prices) limits the ability of households to access market mechanisms and reinforces elitist flood recovery outcomes. Furthermore, the government is known to provide compensation in cases where the Act is not applicable, especially for coastal flooding and in unembanked areas (Van Vliet and Aerts, 2014). Accordingly, there is criticism of the government for being ambiguous and creating outcomes based on political will (Botzen and Van den Bergh 2008). This uncertainty creates the potential for those affected by flooding in different circumstances to be treated unequally and leads to different distributive justice outcomes.
Unembanked areas: the neglected few
‘Unembanked areas’ are generally excluded from mainstream FRM approaches. Citizens in these areas lack the same opportunities of governmental protection or recovery from fluvial and coastal flooding as citizens residing in embanked areas. However, since the National Delta Programme (2012), more attention is being paid to these areas, for example in Dordrecht, to explore possibilities for flood risk adaptation strategies (I&M and EZ 2014). Even though the probability of flooding in unembanked areas has increased in recent years, the flood risk is generally lower often due to higher elevation (Koks et al. 2015). Citizens in unembanked areas principally have to manage flood risk autonomously and, to do so, need to be aware of flood risks and capable of undertaking measures. In general, regulations do not prevent citizens adapting to flooding as long as measures do not influence discharge capacities; however, incentives for measures are not provided (Van Vliet 2012). Information campaigns to increase citizen risk awareness differ from municipality to municipality leading to high variability of awareness (De Boer et al. 2012).
Even when informed, though, citizens need to be financially able to invest in necessary adaptations. Koks et al. (2015) highlighted that 20% of the inhabitants of unembanked areas in the greater Rotterdam area are considered to be socially vulnerable households, potentially limiting their ability to either adapt to flood risk or to move. Subsidies for private flood-proofing measures to enable deprived households to undertake measures are not systematically provided. This individual responsibility suggests a more elitist approach. Furthermore, although around half of regional water authorities offer citizens in unembanked areas a tax reduction (interview: regional water authority), those residing in unembanked areas still contribute to FRM via national and local taxation. It is not true to suggest, however, that those who reside in unembanked areas do not benefit at all from the existence of primary flood defences, but their benefits will be less direct. These residents, for instance, may work in embanked areas or they may benefit from critical infrastructure that is located there. Additionally, they will also benefit from the national economic security afforded by the high flood protection.
Managing pluvial flooding: a burden of the individual?
Pre-emptive pluvial FRM
Pluvial FRM falls largely on the individual. From 2008 onwards, municipalities have a ‘duty of care’ to collect and transport rainwater in public areas. However, importantly, no legal safety standards are nationally prescribed (Gilissen 2013) although technical guidelines foresee, as a rule of thumb, that a sewer has a capacity to flood the street once every two years (Rioned 2006). Municipalities and provinces have discretionary powers to develop and implement management measures for pluvial flooding (Mols and Schut 2012). The management of pluvial flooding can therefore differ between municipalities (ibid).
Resourcing pluvial FRM
Pluvial flooding is financed locally, without any regional redistribution (Kunst 2015). The collection and transport of waste water and urban rainwater is financed via the Municipal Sewer Tax (rioolheffing). The taxes are mainly generated by households (92%) and to a smaller degree by companies (8%) (Twynstra Gudde 2015) although the specific tariff charged differs between municipalities. Generally, it is a fixed amount for single- or multiple-person households paid by the user or property owner. In some cases, however, the economic value is also considered or it is based on the amount of water consumed. Multiple-person households pay on average €189 (range of €79–€375) for municipal Sewer Taxes (Allers et al. 2015). In recent years, the average tax for households has increased above the level of inflation due to new environmental regulations and the renewal of sewer systems (Allers et al. 2015). The proportion of the tax invested in pluvial FRM differs between municipalities but averages at about one-third (Kunst, 2015: 4). Therefore, across the 393 Dutch municipalities this equated in 2014 to investments of €280 million (excluding VAT) or €20 per inhabitant (Kunst 2015: 4, 15).
Managing this type of flooding is clearly a more individual responsibility and is decided at a municipal level. Consequently, the justice outcomes may be highly variable with those cases a municipality prioritises (perhaps based on where the greatest benefit lies: i.e. a utilitarian approach) benefitting greatly and the cases which are not considered residing with the individual, favouring those who are most able to take action (elitist justice outcomes).
Since 1999, insurance for damages from precipitation has been included as part of household (contents and property) insurance. Governmental compensation is formally not foreseen, which implies a more elitist and libertarian understanding of justice with the individual responsible for purchasing compensation via the private market. Having insurance coverage is often a pre-requisite for having a mortgage, and Spekkers et al. (2013) contend that the market penetration for private insurance is high. However, damage due to rainwater entering the ground floor (e.g. pluvial flooding) requires a supplement. The market penetration rate for this supplement is unknown, as is the average premium cost (interview: Dutch Association of Insurers). In general, premiums are not considered to be risk based due to the bundled nature of the insurance and rainfall-generated damages being only one, often minor, peril covered by the insurance (ibid).
Table 2 summarises the different distributive justice outcomes generated by the institutional arrangements responsible for FRM. It highlights a disparity in how flood risk is managed which varies considerable by flood type and location. Reasons for these differences are explored below, before the potential consequences of these different justice outcomes for the future are discussed in Sect. 7.