Traditionally, flood risk reduction in the Netherlands relies heavily on technical measures such as dykes and pumps. Due to recent instances of high river levels, excess rainfall and the prospect of climate change the Dutch flood prevention policy now places more emphasis on spatial measures. Finding “space for water” is not an easy matter for a densely inhabited country like The Netherlands; therefore there is keen interest to learn from the experience of other countries. To this aim, a quick scan has been performed on the experiences in this area in Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Sweden.
The quick scan focusses on spatial measures to reduce flood hazard, measures to reduce the flood damage potential, and on the juridical and economic instruments in support of these measures; measures and instruments for emergency management were not considered. Information was retrieved via internet and a questionnaire.
Nearly all countries that were included in the quick scan have faced major floods in the last decade. This has put flood risk reduction high on the political agendas.
Technical measures still form the backbone of flood prevention in all selected countries, but in most countries there is a strong interest in and growing experience with the application of spatial measures to reduce flood hazard and in the reduction of flood damage potential.
In most countries there are definite plans for the realisation of spatial measures, but actual realisation is still only small scale. Retention measures in the catchment are common in Germany, Italy, Austria and France. Examples of the application of spatial measures in polders or low lying areas were not found outside The Netherlands. Measures for infiltration in urban areas are well developed in Germany. Examples 50of retention areas and protected floodplains were found along rivers in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Hungary. Generally, these areas are situated in sparsely populated regions. Creating new retention areas and regaining floodplains generally requires tailor-made designs that attract sufficient local support and outside funding.
Restrictive hazard zoning in combination with building regulations are important instruments for limiting the flood damage potential in France, Italy, Austria and Germany. In England and Belgium, central authorities have obligated local authorities to take flood risks seriously in their land use decisions. Instances of private contracts to accept floods have been found in France and Germany. Germany is attempting to decrease urban runoff by imposing a tax on impermeable surface in urban areas.
The way in which flood damage compensation is arranged differs greatly from country to country. Some countries have a state compensation scheme; others rely entirely on private insurance; many countries have a mixed system. The high costs incurred in recent floods, that had to be covered by national authorities and the EU, has led to an increasing interest in private insurance.