Compass for the subsoil

The subsoil is important in the extraction of drinking water and energy, such as gas and geothermal heat. It is essential that the subsoil is used in a way that is safe, sustainable and efficient. That is why the Cabinet has approved the “Structural Vision for the Subsoil, A Compass for the Subsoil” submitted by Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment and Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs.

Subsoil activities

Our drinking water supply and the extraction of gas, oil, geothermal heat, and the storage of substances in the subsoil are matters of national importance.  The Structural Vision contains a spatial planning policy for these national interests. The Cabinet wants to ensure that the subsoil is used in a safe, sustainable and efficient way. That means a balance must constantly be sought between protecting groundwater for the drinking water supply, and using the subsoil in the transition to a sustainable energy supply.

The Structural Vision states, among other things, that the existing extraction of drinking water will be protected, that the areas in which groundwater will be protected will be set down in collaboration with the provinces, and that no fracking will take place before 2023. The decision as to whether or not fracking will be an option in the Netherlands after 2023, will be made later.

Future-proof

Minister Schultz van Haegen: ‘We are routinely unaware of just how much activity takes place in the subsoil. We obtain our drinking water from the ground and extract energy from it. The Structural Vision was realized together with local authorities, and in close collaboration with the business community, among others. In this way, we are making our subsoil future-proof. The Netherlands is also a global leader with this national plan for our subsoil.’

Minister Kamp: ‘In the Netherlands, we use the subsoil intensively. For example, for extracting drinking water and energy. It is important that such activities are performed safely, reliably and affordably. A crucial aspect in this, is to work together with private parties and authorities, and make clear agreements on who has what role and where responsibility lies. The Structural Vision for Subsoil strengthens the basis for collaboration and clearly indicates which activities can take place where in the subsoil, and how we should deal with the various interests involved. In this way, we are ensuring that in the future, the various subsoil activities will not come into conflict with one another.’

Deep subsoil in practice

The Structural Vision for the Subsoil serves as a compass for practical considerations. The vision is intended to provide greater clarity for initiators and other authorities with regard to future projects involving the deep subsoil. For example, the Structural Vision sets out where companies can apply for permits for subsoil activities and where they cannot. If an activity is not excluded in the vision, this does not, however, mean that a permit will be issued automatically. The Structural Vision includes location-specific observations.  Safety issues and the interests of residents play a large role in this process. In this regard, the government is making clear in advance exactly what it considers to be important when final decisions are made.