What is the project about?

A majority of the world’s population live in deltas that are rapidly changing due to climate change and socioeconomic development. This fuels the need for an integrated approach for the long-term development of coastal areas that explicitly takes into account all the uncertainty in the development of these dynamic areas. Adaptive Delta Management is such an approach, and the MAS department is a leading contributor to its development.

What problems does the project intend to solve?

Adaptive Delta Management emerged in the Netherlands in the context of the new Delta Programme, motivated by two key concerns. First, society can no longer afford to manage floods and droughts in a reactive manner. Second, existing scenario-planning approaches are insufficient for supporting the dynamic adaptation over time in response to yet unknown future developments. Adaptive delta planning seeks to maximise flexibility for the long-term development of coastal areas while allowing for uncertainties in the future climate, population, economy and society. It proactively explores future pathways and different adaptation measures to avoid a standstill.

How does the project impact society?

The policy analysis section, together with Deltares, developed a conceptual framework – namely dynamic adaptive policy pathways – that laid the foundation for the Dutch Delta Programme. The adaptation pathways approach shows which options are needed and when they should be implemented, and how long-term objectives influence short-term decisions. The framework was received enthusiastically, also internationally. The approach is now being used in countries all over the world, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Adaptation pathways are also being discussed as a key approach for climate adaptation, and the approach is being adopted by international organisations such as the World Bank in long-term decision making.

The research on model-based support for the design of adaptation pathways has resulted in open source software that is being used internationally by academic institutes, as well as by public and private sector organisations. The World Bank used it in its recent ‘Shockwave’ report on climate change and poverty.

Participatory approaches for supporting adaptive delta management have been applied in South Africa and the United States to help structure stakeholder preferences and identify directions for resolving deadlocks in decision making.

Over the years, cooperation in Adaptive Delta Management with Deltares (a world-leading institute for applied research on water) has been intensified. This enables a close interaction between research and the real-world application of research results.

Adaptive Delta Management is a leading concept in the export-oriented International Water Ambition of the ministries of Infrastructure & the Environment and Foreign Affairs & Economic Affairs, and is the label under which Dutch engineering and consultancy firms bring their integrated advice on water and flood risk management to urbanising deltas worldwide.

Marjolijn Haasnoot and Jan Kwakkel

‘Adaptive delta management helps decision-makers to identify short-term actions and long-term options by opening up the decision space despite deep uncertainty.’


  • Incorporation of adaptive policymaking as a leading concept in the Dutch Delta Programme.
  • Role of Adaptive Delta Management as an integrative concept between TU Delft faculties.
  • Incorporation of Adaptive Delta Management as a key concept in the Bangladesh delta plan.

Who is involved?

Marjolijn Haasnoot, Jan Kwakkel, Warren Walker, Jos Timmermans, Leon Hermans, Wil Thissen, Frans Klijn, Tineke Ruijgh, Jill Slinger, Scott Cunningham, Luciano Raso, Pieter Bots and various PhD candidates and other postdoc researchers.

Faculties CEG, 3Me and Architecture (TU Delft). Other Dutch partners are Deltares, WUR, staff of the Delta Commissioner, PBL, Twente University, University Utrecht, Radboud University Nijmegen.

International partners are: Climate Change Research Institute New Zealand, Environmental Protection Agency (UK), RAND Corporation, World Bank, CEGIS (Bangladesh), BUET (Bangladesh), ETB Bandung (Indonesia), WACC - Vietnam National University, Cornell University (United States), Penn State university (United States), IRSTEA (France), Rhodes University (South Africa), Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty.

How is the project funded?

FP7 ENGAGE: European Commission FP7 INFRASTRUCTURES Programme (CP-CSA project).
VRE4EIC: H2020 E-INFRA-9 Programme of the European Commission (Research and Innovation Action).