For the water sector, adapting to the effects of climate change is a highly complex issue. Due to its geographical position, The Netherlands is vulnerable to sea level rise, increasing river discharges and increasing salt intrusion. This paper deals with the question of to what extent the historically developed Dutch water safety institutions have the capacity to cope with the ‘new’ challenges of climate change. The Adaptive Capacity Wheel provides the methodological framework. The analysis focuses on three recent and major planning practices in the Dutch water safety domain: the development and implementation of the Room for the River project, the introduction of the flood risk approach and the introduction of the Second Delta Plan. The results show that Dutch water safety institutions enable climate change adaptation, but to a limited extent. They face five institutional weaknesses that may cause risks in particular in the long term. The paper concludes that for The Netherlands to be prepared for climate change, it is necessary to build capacity to improvise, to invest in and create room for collaborative leaders, and to find ways to generate financial resources for long-term innovative measures.
Keywords: adaptive capacity, climate adaptation, institutions, The Netherlands, water safety