Looming drinking water shortage a threat to the Netherlands, suppliers say
Water companies in the Netherlands said that a combination of drought, pollution, and the growing population is a threat to the supply of clean, potable water in the country, they said in a letter. A shortage of drinking water could be just a few years away, the companies said according to NRC.
“The water system is reaching its limits due to drought, salinity and increasing water demand due to a growing population and economy. The availability of water for the drinking water supply is under pressure,” the letter stated. “In addition, the quality of drinking water sources is deteriorating due to pollution of agriculture, industry and households. Future generations risk being saddled with a less secure supply of reliable drinking water.”
Drought has become more frequent, the economy is growing, and water needs have increased quickly over the last ten years, they said. The demand will water will continue to grow, particularly as the Dutch population will grow by an estimated 1.5 million people within the next 20 years. Groundwater and surface water sites are also endangered, with increasing salivation and the high amount of pollution from the agriculture and industrial sectors.
Three of the companies are under immediate pressure to fulfill their mandate to supply clean, potable water. Those companies are Dunea, Vitens, and Waterbedrijf Groningen, according to NRC. The newspaper examined an internal document from Verwin, the association of water companies, to draw this conclusion.
All ten of the Dutch water companies may no longer be able to meet their obligations about water provision by 2030 if the current infrastructure is not scaled up further. This means collecting more water, increasing purification capacity, and investing in more distribution systems. “Everyone takes it for granted that water just comes out the tap. That is not true. That’s worrying,” said Peter van der Velden, the chair of Verwin, in an interview with NRC.
The water companies also fear they will not be able to supply water to all 900,000 new homes that the Cabinet wants built in the next seven years. As such, they think water access and soil should be the priority when considering spatial planning in the Netherlands.
The companies proposed several solutions to the problem, such as removing the red tape around granting permission for water extraction, speeding up the development of new extraction sites, and converting seawater into drinking water. The government’s limitation on letting the utility companies earn a profit has also had the effect of limiting their ability to invest in the supply chain issues and new innovations, they claimed.
Further, they also recommend making it easier, or even mandatory, for households to collect their own rainwater and recycle their own wasted drinking water. Water conservation campaigns could also slow household water usage.