Minister Schultz signs new plan of attack for tackling water quality

The quality of ground water and surface water in the Netherlands needs to be improved. For that reason, Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment), together with the authorities involved and NGOs, yesterday signed an ambitious declaration on improving water quality in the Netherlands.

In recent years, hard work has been done on raising the quality of surface water and ground water. However, in many places our water meets neither the requirements nor our wishes. With the Delta Approach for Water Quality and Fresh Water, all parties involved in the areas of drinking water, agriculture and horticulture, nature, industry, recreation, healthcare, and knowledge will be joining forces in the years ahead to resolve persistent problems such as fertilisers and pesticides, and emerging issues like pharmaceutical residues and microplastics. In this way, future generations will be able to enjoy a sufficient supply of clean water.

Minister Schultz: ‘Dutch drinking water can effortlessly compete with bottled mineral water sold in supermarkets. This is actually a technological feat which we should be proud of. We should not forget that good quality fresh water is anything but a given. We have to work hard for clean water every day. I believe it is good step to be working on water quality with all the parties involved.’

The Delta Approach tackles water quality across its entire spectrum: fertilisers (nutrients), pesticides, the water quality at sources of drinking water and the water quality of our large waters. It also tackles new substances in water such as pharmaceutical residues and microplastics (tiny balls in toothpaste and facial scrubs) which give rise to ever larger problems. We need to examine the entire chain to find solutions. So, we should not just look at water treatment once the pollution has occurred – we need to tackle things at the source.

The recently published National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) report entitled Geneesmiddelen en Waterkwaliteit (Pharmaceuticals and Water Quality) stated that there is sufficient cause for concern regarding the effects of pharmaceuticals on water quality and our environment. As a result, collaboration with the care sector is being sought and concrete measures implemented to limit the volume of pharmaceutical residues in our water. The water sector and care sector are together examining where the effects on the environment of pharmaceutical use can be reduced. In addition, the water authorities, drinking water companies, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment have launched a study into efficient purification methods, such as used in the sewage treatment plant in Papendrecht. And, in a few months, the water authorities will present the results of a study into places where additional purification can be established most effectively.  

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has indicated that with this drive to improve water quality, the European goals set for 2027 can be achieved. The approach will be further fleshed out in the years ahead with more concrete long-term measures in the lead-up to a new Administrative Agreement on Water.