Quality of Dutch drinking water sources at serious risk: water companies

The quality of the Netherlands' drinking water sources is at serious risk, partly due to pollution with chemical substances, medicine residues and manure, according to a study by KWR, the knowledge institute for the drinking water sector. The drinking water companies call for immediate intervention, AD reports.

The groundwater in drinking water extraction areas - where more than half of the Netherlands' drinking water comes from - is becoming increasingly polluted at deeper and deeper levels. The main polluting culprits are nitrate, pesticides and old soil contamination, according to the KWR. Industrial substances and medicine residues are also increasingly found in the groundwater. And new underground activities, such as geothermal energy extraction or the storage of heat and cold, also pose a risk to drinking water quality. 

The KWR warns of a "steady and probably irreversible deterioration" of groundwater quality.

The surface water, from which 40 percent of Dutch drinking water is produced, is not doing much better. Rivers are increasingly contaminated with chemical substances and medicine residues. There are ongoing studies into the health risks posed by micro plastics, nano materials and veterinary medicines in drinking water. And climate change also causes new threats, such as salinization. Earlier this week, water companies around the Maas already warned that droughts are making the river too vulnerable to be a source of drinking water. 

"This study provides a worrying picture. It is two minutes to midnight for the 221 Dutch drinking water sources. Measures to improve quality are absolutely necessary", Peter van der Velden, chairman of the association for Dutch water companies Vewin, said to AD. He stressed that the quality of water coming out of Dutch taps is still optimal. "But it takes ever greater efforts to get the water purified."

Van Velden will present the KWR study to Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management on Thursday