2013 Edelman WInner Dutch Delta Commissioners

Economically Efficient Standards to Protect the Netherlands against Flooding

In the Netherlands flood protection is a matter of national survival. In 2008, the 2nd Delta Committee recommended that legal flood protection standards be increased at least tenfold to compensate for population and economic growth since 1953, which would have involved dike improvement investments estimated at 11.5 billion euro. Our research group was charged with developing efficient flood protection standards in a more objective way. We used Mixed Integer Nonlinear Programming to demonstrate the efficiency of increasing the legal standards only in three critical regions. Monte Carlo analysis confirmed the robustness of this outcome. Our results were accepted by the State Secretary in 2012 as basis for legislation. Compared to the earlier recommendation, this successful application of Operations Research yields not only a highly significant increase in protection for these regions (where two-thirds of the benefits of proposed improvements are concentrated) but also some 7.8 billion euro in cost savings. Our methods could be used in decision-making for other flood-prone areas worldwide.