A technical investigation on tools and concepts for sustainable management of the subsurface in The Netherlands

Jasper Griffioen, Joke van Wensem, Justine L.M. Oomes, Frans Barends, Jaap Breunese, Hans Bruining, Theo Olsthoorn, Alfons J.M. Stams, Almer E.C. van der Stoel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In response to increasing use of the subsurface, there is a need to modernise policies on sustainable use of the subsurface. This holds in particular for the densely populated Netherlands. We aimed to analyse current practice of subsurface management and the associated pressure points and to establish a conceptual overview of the technical issues related to sustainable management of the subsurface. Case studies on the exploitation of subsurface resources (including spatial use of the subsurface) were analysed, examining social relevance, environmental impact, pressure points and management solutions. The case studies ranged from constructing underground garages to geothermal exploitation. The following issues were identified for the technological/scientific aspects: site investigation, suitability, risk assessment, monitoring and measures in the event of failure. Additionally, the following general issues were identified for the administrative aspects: spatial planning, option assessment, precaution, transparency, responsibility and liability. These issues were explored on their technological implications within the framework of sustainable management of the subsurface. This resulted into the following key aspects: (1) sustainability assessment, (2) dealing with uncertainty and (3) policy instruments and governance. For all three aspects, different options were identified which might have a legal, economic or ethical background. The technological implications of these backgrounds have been identified. A set of recommendations for sustainable management of the subsurface resources (incl. space) was established: (1) management should be driven by scarcity, (2) always implement closed loop monitoring when the subsurface activities are high-risk, (3) when dealing with unknown features and heterogeneity, apply the precautionary principle, (4) responsibility and liability for damage must be set out in legislation and (5) sustainability should be incorporated in all relevant legislation and not only in environmental legislation. Other aspects to be considered are the reversibility of the impacts from subsurface activities and the abandonment of installations. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-819
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Case study
  • Legal principles
  • Risk analysis
  • Sustainability assessment
  • article
  • economic aspect
  • environmental exploitation
  • environmental impact
  • environmental monitoring
  • environmental sustainability
  • ethics
  • law
  • Netherlands
  • observational method
  • policy
  • priority journal
  • resource management
  • responsibility
  • risk assessment
  • social aspect
  • uncertainty


Dive into the research topics of 'A technical investigation on tools and concepts for sustainable management of the subsurface in The Netherlands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this