7 million people could lose drinking water as climate change hits Maas river: Report
There is a good chance that climate change will cause more frequent periods in the future when less water flows through the Maas river, which could put the drinking water supply in the Netherlands and Belgium at risk. RIWA-Maas, which represents the interests of drinking water companies in the Netherlands and Belgium that extract 500 billion liters of water from the Maas every year, reported that on Friday. The Maas is the drinking water source for more than 7 million people.
The interest organization commissioned the knowledge institute Deltares to research the expected future availability of Maas water. The reason for the research is the Maas river’s low discharge in recent years and concerns that climate change will negatively affect the river’s water levels.
In almost all studied climate scenarios and for all locations on the Maas, more extended periods of low dischargers emerged for the summer period. “The results of this research are worrying,” said RIWA-Maas director Maarten van der Ploeg. “We must increasingly consider that climate change will have a lasting negative impact on both the quantity and quality of our drinking water.”
At low water, the river is extra vulnerable to incidents or (industrial) discharges because contaminants are diluted less and are hardly washed away, said RIWA-Maas. According to the organization, this could lead to drinking water companies having to temporarily stop taking water from the Maas more and more often in the future. “A prolonged interruption of water intake could endanger the drinking water supply of seven million people,” said Van der Ploeg.
According to Van der Ploeg, 2050 seems far away. “But we have already seen a long-term lower water discharge in recent summers. That is why we believe that the report is also a reason for other parties to take action. We must discuss with governments, water managers, research institutes, and water users at the national and international levels to reach better and stricter agreements about the management of the Maas and its tributaries. And to jointly take measures to reduce pollution caused by industrial discharges, for example.”
Reporting by ANP