The sheer mass of water moving daily from the sea through the tidal part of the Scheldt and the resulting risk of flooding for the lower areas, pose a threat to the safety and activity of the inhabitants. Additionally, the discharge of rainwater through rivers can cause problems if there is a significant amount of precipitation in a short time period. Thanks to climate change, sea level rises and extreme weather conditions will occur more often, causing an elevated chance of inundations in the future.
To provide sufficient protection, storm surge barriers were and are still being established. Also dikes are built, reinforced, expanded, or moved and flood zones are being made. Two related projects important to mention are the Dutch Delta Programme and its Flemish counterpart the Sigma plan. While guaranteeing safety, both projects also consider other important factors within the Scheldt basin (natural values, recreation and economy). Both for the Sigma Plan and the Delta programme as well as for other protective measures, a lot of research was and is still being carried out concerning the safety in and around the Scheldt estuary. Studies on flood control areas (FCAs) as an alternative to expanding dikes form an important part of this research. FCA and FCA-RTs (flood control area with reduced tides) not only protect the region but also increase its natural value.
Since many ships navigate on the Scheldt, shipping traffic must also proceed safely. The Permanent Committee of Supervision on Scheldt Navigation is responsible for this. Buoys indicating the channels, continuous monitoring of shipping traffic with radar stations, traffic control centres and a shipping assistance system must manage this properly. More information is provided under the ‘shipping’ section. In the case of big ships, a pilot boards and gives advice to the captain. Research about safety risks supports the policy of the commission.