Working Paper: Cost-benefit Analysis for Flood Risk Management and Water Governance in the Netherlands

October 25, 2017

We welcome papers submitted by SBCA members on topics in benefit-cost analysis for circulation as part of this working paper series. The Society shares these papers as a service to its members and the benefit-cost analysis community. The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis does not edit the papers before sharing and inclusion of a working paper here does not constitute endorsement by the Society of any of its content.  SBCA members interested in submitting their working papers for future issues may contact Erika Dowd at

Title: Cost-benefit analysis for flood risk management and water governance in the Netherlands; an overview of one century


Abstract: The Netherlands is a global reference for flood risk management. This reputation is based on a mix of world-class civil engineering projects and innovative concepts of water governance. For more than a century, cost-benefit analysis has been important for flood risk management and water governance in the Netherlands. It has helped to select the most effective and efficient flood risk projects and to coordinate and reconcile the interests of various policy areas, levels of government and private stakeholders. This paper provides for the first time an overview of this well-developed practice. This includes the cost-benefit analysis in the 1901 act for enclosure of the Zuiderzee, van Dantzig’s famous formula for the economically optimal strength of dikes and a whole set of cost-benefit analyses for More room for rivers and the Delta Program for the next century. Dutch practice illustrates how cost-benefit analysis can support and improve flood risk management and water governance; other countries may learn from this. Rough calculations indicate that investing in cost-benefit analysis has been a highly profitable investment for Dutch society.

Authors: Frits Bos and Peter Zwaneveld (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)