Thursday 18 August 2022

Dutch waters too polluted to meet EU norms: NRC


The quality of the water in the Netherlands is rapidly falling and it is unlikely European standards will be achieved, possibly prompting a crisis comparable to the current nitrogen pollution situation, the NRC reports.

Between 2015 and 2021 the quality of water in as many as two out of three lakes and rivers has deteriorated, data analysis by the paper showed.

Experts doubt the European quality norms, which will be effective from 2027, will be met, and say only 5% of water sources will comply with the requirements.

If the Netherlands fails to comply with the norms, the EU will apply sanctions and that may impact on licences for new activities, such as construction, which is already under pressure, the paper said.

The main problem is the amount of chemicals such as cobalt, mercury, arsenic and pesticides in the water, experts told the paper.

Water board Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier which monitors the Noord Holland waters said it would not be ‘realistic’ to think the norm could be achieved in time.

Apart from too many chemicals,  the waters under its supervision have too high concentrations of nitrogen, half of which is from manure from agriculture and waste water purification, the water board said.

Water boards depend on the cooperation between industry, farmers, ministries and the provincial authorities but that cooperation ‘is lacking’, experts told the paper.


Environment minister Mark Harbers warned in April that 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.

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.


In June, European Environment Agency figures showed the Netherlands has the lowest proportion of ‘excellent’ bathing waters in Western Europe.

The agency publishes its assessment of bathing waters every year ahead of the summer break, covering almost 22,000 sites at the seaside, rivers and lakes in the European Union, Albania and Switzerland where people can take a swim.

In 2021, 84.8% of European sites where water quality was measured were given the status of ‘excellent’, while in Netherlands the share was 73.8%. The proportion of Dutch sites with poor water quality was also above the EU average: 4.6% against 1.5%.

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