Water supply in Rijn river below minimum level

The supply of water to the Rijn river that enters at Spijk Nederland dropped below the minimum limit for the month of July, the national coordination committee for water distribution LCW announced. The LCW therefore issued a code yellow, which means that a water shortage may be imminent. The low water level may lead to measures, though what measures exactly is not yet clear, the LCW said, NU.nl reports.

According to the LCW, both the Rijn and the Maas are important for the water supply in the Netherlands. The minimum quantity of water that must flow into the Rijn in July is 1,200 cubic meters per second. On July 15th this dropped below that limit, and it currently stands at 1,140 cubic meters per second. Almost no rain is expected in the basin of the river, elsewhere in Europe, for the next week. The LCW therefore expects that the water supply will drop well below 1,100 cubic meters per second.

The water supply to the Maas is expected to drop to between 30 and 60 cubic meters per second. This is still above the lower limit of 25 cubic meters per second, and the LCW does not expect it will drop below that limit over the next 15 days. The water levels in the IJsselmeer area are "on level", except for those of the Veluwerand lakes. 

The consequences of the drought are most noticeable on the high sandy soils in the Netherlands - Noord-Brabant, Limburg, Drenthe, Twente, the Achterhoek and the Veluwe. These areas are not supplied by water from rivers and are completely dependent on rainfall. The ban on irrigation using surface water will remain in place in these areas for the time being. 

The LCW expects that, especially in agriculture, the demand for water will increase to higher than the supply in the coming period. "At the moment supply and demand are in balance, but that will change", Harold van Waveren, chairman of the LCW, said, according to the newspaper. The weather services expect no significant rainfall in the weeks ahead. It is expected that the national average of the precipitation deficit will rise to 266 millimeters. "Such a precipitation deficit is comparable with the situation in the record [drought] year of 1976", according to the LCW.

No water is currently being discharged to the sea through the Asluitdijk and Haringvliet locks, to retain as much fresh water as possible. Water boards are also continually monitoring peat dikes, to make sure they don't break through like what happened in 2003. Due to the drought, the peat became lighter and caused a dike to be washed away. They dikes are sprayed with water where necessary, making the peat heavier, which should prevent the dike breaking. 

The drought and heat also mean that the water quality in the Netherlands is decreasing. Over the past weeks, there were increasing reports of blue-green algae, botulism, fish mortality and unwanted bacteria in fresh water. The expectation is that the water temperature will rise further in the coming week, thereby decreasing the quality further. But in relative terms, the situation is not too bad. "Despite the high water temperature, the water quality is still of good quality compared to other years", the LCW said. Rijkswaterstaat and the water boards call on swimmers to only go swimming in official swimming locations. 

On Wednesday the municipality of Sittard-Geleen warned residents that the drought is increasing the rat problem. The wells along the street are drying up. "Rats do not like that. They need water every day and come out of the sewer in search of water and food", the municipality wrote on Facebook. Pouring a bucket of water into the wells will help keep the rats in the sewers, and also reduce the sewage smell, the municipality said.