Netherlands risking massive fines with dirtiest surface water in Europe
The Netherlands has the dirtiest surface water in Europe, with not even 1 percent getting the “good” label, according to a report by Natuurmonumenten. At this stage, there is little to no chance of the Netherlands meeting the European targets set for 2027. And that means the country could face tens of millions of euros in fines per year from the EU, RTL Nieuws reports.
This report is about the Netherlands’ surface water and not the drinking water, which is of fine quality. According to Natuurmonumenten, the biggest problems facing Dutch surface water are pollution by chemicals from agriculture and industry, excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, water discharging too quickly, and excessive groundwater extraction.
By 2027, the designated waters in all EU countries must comply with the Water Framework Directive, which sets standards for ensuring that the surface water is in good chemical and ecological condition. In the Netherlands, it concerns the river basins of the Eems, Rijn, Maas, and Schelde. The ecological systems in these river basins are in a bad state, and it is all but impossible for the Netherlands to get it cleaned up by 2027, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) warned in its journal Wageningen World.
“With our agriculture, industry, transport, and high population density, we add pollution,” said WUR researcher Peter Schipper in the journal. “That became more intensive in a period when nobody cared about spatial planning. Everything was allowed everywhere, which is why we are running up against the limits of the water and soil system.” The Netherlands also gets pollution from abroad, as polluted water flows into the country via streams and rivers.
“A lot of nutrients and toxins from agriculture end up in the water,” said Piet Verdonschot, professor of Surface Water Restoration at WUR. “We’re saddling the next generation with a crisis. Too little has been done in recent years.” According to Verdonschot, the Netherlands needs to tackle this problem at its source. Instead of trying to remove substances from the water, ensure that no more get in.
The Netherlands will not achieve the EU goals by 2027, Verdonschot said. “It is impossible, given the major task ahead and the legacy of substances that remain. It will not be possible to get rid of all that in a few years’ time.”