Netherlands hard put to achieve European clean water norms


The Netherlands is unlikely to meet the EU’s 2027 deadline to achieve the environmental and pollution standards for Europe’s ground water and waterways, environment minister Mark Harbers has told MPs.

At the moment only 1% of Dutch lakes and rivers comply with the European norms set out in the European water framework directive.

Harbers said that while no body of water complies with the all the norms, it is not the case that the quality of Dutch water as a whole is substandard. Much depends on the way pollution was measured, he said.

However, he admitted that if Dutch water is found to fall short, as is currently the case for 99% of Dutch lakes and rivers, the consequences could be ‘far reaching’.

The framework has been in force since 2000 and projects which affect water quality can be stopped by law, although Halbers said he did not expect another nitrogen emission crisis.


Apart from European fines, farmers, already struggling with CO2 norms, could also be facing stringent measures when it comes to water quality.

Harbers said that making agriculture ‘less intensive’ will help water quality but so far farmers have resisted moves to cap livestock farming and other environmental measures.

Asked what he will do to get the quality of the 745 main Dutch lakes and rivers in the Netherlands up to standard, Halbers said the current package of measures and programmes will improve water quality over time. However, this will not take place  ‘everywhere in the Netherlands’, he said.

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