Subsiding soils, rising costs

The PBL study Subsiding soils, rising costs provides a clear-cut overview of the impact of peatland subsidence and possible measures for both rural and urban areas. A directed policy adopted now may avoid rising costs for the public administration and the individual citizen in the future.

In urban areas, the weak surface subsides under a physical load; in rural areas, subsidence of peatland is mainly caused by lowered water tables.

Cost for society of peatland subsidence

In the Netherlands, the cost for society of subsidence occurring in peatlands amounts to billions of euros. Up to 2050, the cost of repairing damage to the infrastructure and frequent maintenance may be as high as 5.2 billion euros.

In rural areas this too involves extra costs related to restoration of infrastructure and homes with poor foundations. In addition, lowering the water table leads to CO2 emissions and the deterioration of nature where areas run dry. PBL reports that over a 40-year period, subsidence in peatland pastures carries a water management cost of around 200 million euros.

The decentral authorities need to act now

To ensure the cost of land subsidence remains manageable in the long term (2050), this study asserts that investment is required in research and innovative measures in the fields of spatial planning, road construction, housing developments and water management.

In areas where peatland subsidence occurs, the provinces, water boards and municipalities play an important role in tackling the problem in close cooperation with other parties in order to make these areas future proof.


G.J. van den Born, F. Kragt, D. Henkens, B. Rijken, B. van Bemmel en S. van der Sluis


Publication title
Subsiding soils, rising costs
Publication date
24 November 2016
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