After a thousand years of experience with building dikes and managing polders and water levels while striking a delicate balance between keeping their feet dry and creating room for water, the Dutch have water management in their DNA. That is why flood risk management should certainly not be considered exclusively as a question of building big, strong barriers but also as a question of inspecting and managing the condition of the levees, of regular maintenance and appraisal, and finally of monitoring the status of levees in extreme conditions and, if necessary, intervening or taking emergency measures.

Acquiring more information about a levee - and improving our understanding as a result - gives us a clearer picture of its behaviour and status. When little information is available, a sensible, cautious approach is adopted. That means that a levee can, as it were, be upgraded by collecting more information about it: levees can be strengthened with information.

The approach has not stood still during the past one thousand years. We have developed better, smarter and more efficient ways of protecting ourselves. The responsibilities of water managers and the relevant agencies have been adjusted accordingly. The switch to a risk-based approach has been made: we look at both flood prevention and the impact of flooding, and how we can mitigate the risks. This results in an interaction between management interventions and the need to upgrade levees. As a result, there is now a wish to integrate issues relating to water and space more, and this has led to more pressure on how interventions are integrated in the field, the reduction of disruption during implementation, and combinations with other spatial objectives.

Since 2007, knowledge has been developed in the area of dike inspection and appraisal using sensor systems, leading to the production of marketable dike monitoring systems (smart levees). In this way, flood risk management is based more soundly on data, and dikes are strengthened with information.