This National Water Plan provides the broad outlines, principles and direction of the national water policy of the Netherlands for the 2016-2021 planning period, with a projection towards 2050. It also concerns related aspects of spatial policy. The National Water Plan lays down the central government’s strategic goals for water management. The Management and Development Plan for the National Waters by Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) outlines the conditions and measures for operational management to achieve these strategic goals. The planning period will see realistic measures being implemented that address the challenges in the short term and leave sufficient options open for taking further steps in the longer term. The Plan aims at effective protection against floods, at the prevention of pluvial flooding and drought, and at achieving good water quality and a healthy ecosystem as the basis for welfare and prosperity. The Plan incorporates the so-called "Delta Decisions" and is in line with other policies, the Environment and Planning Act, the Water Framework Directive, the European Directive on the assessment and management of flood risks and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Plan also contains elements of coastal zone management.The main topics that are addressed by this Plan are flood risk management, freshwater demand management and water quality. This new NWP does not include a number of topics that were dealt with in the previous NWP. Only the topics that have been marked as being of national importance in the Framework Vision on Infrastructure and Space are included in this NWP. This will be dealt with by the future National Environmental Planning Strategy. Water policy is formulated and implemented according to a river basin approach. The various water challenges are considered within a natural and geographical unit, with administrative boundaries being of secondary importance.The Plan sets out principles of water management based in part on climate-change forecasts. The Cabinet is pursuing a progressive flood risk management policy. The aim of this is to ensure that everyone in the Netherlands is offered the same tolerable risk level. Areas with large numbers of potential victims or where economic damage can be substantial are given additional protection. These areas have been identified on the basis of costs-benefit analyses and group risk analyses. Areas that are home to vital infrastructure are also afforded extra protection. Safety is achieved using the various layers of the multi-layer safety: preventing floods and limiting the consequences of a flood (water-robust spatial organisation and disaster management). The Cabinet will continue to adapt the flood risk management policy and, to this end, will draft a bill setting new standards for primary flood defence systems (an amendment to the Water Act). The following national assessment of primary flood defence systems will take place from 2017 onwards on the basis of the new flood risk management policy and the associated, updated set of assessment tools.As for freshwater (demand) management, clear goals and a coherent approach are necessary, in conjunction with measures in the main water system and the regional water system and among users (such as agriculture, industry, nature, shipping and drinking water). The Plan sets out choices of the Government in this field. It introduces a new ‘supply level’ tool, which provides an insight into the availability of freshwater and the division of responsibilities. The Cabinet is preparing for climate change by basing freshwater policy on the availability of freshwater and the probability of water shortages in a specific area under both normal and dry conditions. One of the topics of freshwater management is salinisation.Achieving the ecological and chemical water quality targets for the Water Framework Directive is still a major challenge. The Cabinet is intensifying its control over the improvement of the water quality. Clear objectives have been formulated, for both the substances mentioned by the OECD and new substances that may cause problems, such as medicines. Other issues are nitrate and pesticide reduction, monitoring the impact of agriculture on water and litter. The central government is working with provinces, municipalities and water boards on a multifaceted Soil and Subsoil Programme. The objective is: to ensure a sustainable, safe and efficient use of the subsoil, and strike a balance between utilisation and protection. The use of groundwater, including groundwater extraction, for the purpose of drinking water production, is part of the Programme.