RIVM not certain Netherlands will have enough drinking water in 2030
It is uncertain whether the Netherlands will have enough water to produce drinking water in 2030, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, NRC reports.
In the reference year 2020, the drinking water companies extracted 1.3 billion cubic meters of surface- or groundwater, depending on the province. By 2030, the RIVM estimates they’ll need to extract an extra 102 million cubic meters of water. But all ten water companies in the Netherlands are facing a multitude of problems and are already struggling to meet the current requirements.
“For years, drinking water companies had the idea: we arranged it well. Now the system's limits have been reached,” RIVM researcher Robin van Leerdam said to NRC. “We see just enough drinking water capacity nationally, but there are already problems regionally.” Without immediate action by the national government, provinces, water boards, and consumers, drinking water companies won’t manage to extract the extra water needed by 2030, and there will be a shortage, the RIVM warned.
According to the RIVM, there are multiple bottlenecks. A growing population and economy increase the demand for drinking water, while drought has caused water scarcity. The surface water extracted by drinking water companies is increasingly often salinized or polluted, meaning they need to make “increasing efforts” to purify it with “increasingly more advanced methods.” That is expensive and loses water in the process.
Drinking water companies that extract groundwater have a permit to extract more water. But they are running up against nature conservation laws that restrict water extraction to keep water levels high in vulnerable areas or not to harm nature. Water companies are, therefore, looking for new extraction sites. But space is scarce in the Netherlands. The permit process is also slow and must weigh up other, often conflicting interests, the RIVIM said.
Four provinces - Gelderland, Overijssel, Groningen, and the western part of Zuid-Holland - already don’t have enough reserves available to guarantee immediate drinking water at peak times.
The RIVM urged the national government and provinces to take measures. Encourage consumers to use water sparingly, line up options to purchase drinking water abroad, retain water in wet periods instead of draining it, and speed up permit procedure, the RIVM suggested.
The drinking water companies already sounded the alarm about this in September but noticed little urgency among the governments, spokespersons for Vitens and Dunea said to NRC. “There are so many crises in the Netherlands that drinking water is apparently not at the top of the pile,” the Vitens spokesperson said. They feel supported by the RIVM research.