In a statement published by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) on Monday morning, the research institute warns that urgent action is required in order to ensure the Netherlands doesn’t face a shortage of drinking water by 2030. 

Rising temperatures and growing population threatening water supply

Last autumn, a report published by Dutch water companies warned that the country faced an imminent shortage of drinking water. Now, only around six months later, the RIVM has issued a stark warning for the Dutch government, stating that “without measures, shortages [of drinking water] will arise throughout the Netherlands by 2030.”

These are the findings of research carried out by the RIVM into supply bottlenecks and possible solutions to ensure a national supply of drinking water over the coming years. “The demand for drinking water will increase until at least 2030,” the RIVM writes. “Due to climate change and pollution, its supply is under pressure.” The institute predicts that, by 2030, 1,4 billion cubic metres of water will be needed – 100 million cubic metres more than in 2020.

The research found that, if the government fails to take action, all 10 drinking water companies – the 10 companies that issued the warning last year – will face shortages. According to the RIVM, the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, as well as parts of South Holland and Groningen, already face shortages: in 2020, there “was already insufficient drinking water…to meet demand” in these regions. 

RIVM: The Netherlands needs to take action – and soon

In order to combat the growing issue, the RIVM is advised in favour of a series of measures – all of which need to be implemented “in the short term” by the national government. These measures revolve around three key steps: searching and securing new sources of water, using less drinking water, and ensuring the quality of ground and surface water in the Netherlands.

The RIVM notes that garnering support for new extraction sites is tricky, but goes on to state that the government will have to “weigh up the interests of agriculture, shipping, industry, recreation and nature,” as “increasing production or extracting at new locations can affect the availability of water for other water users in the area.”

The advice also states that the Netherlands could do more to “build up later stocks and retain water for longer,” for example by setting up the infrastructure required to store more water in the dunes or basins. This water could then be used during the warm summer months. The RIVM notes that water companies might also be able to help, namely by working together to “exchange additional supplies at peak times.”

Dutch government aims to reduce water usage by 2035

The RIVM report might come as a shock to many – primarily as the Netherlands is known as a country with an abundance of water – but it isn’t surprising to those in the industry. Indeed, the findings of the RIVM’s research merely confirm the conclusions reached in other earlier studies.

Vewin, the trade association for water companies in the Netherlands, told NOS it was pleased by the RIVM’s report: “Without prompt action from the parties involved, and in particular from the provinces, more and more regions will face bottlenecks in ensuring the drinking water supply. As a result, it is not guaranteed that the intended new homes in all provinces will be provided with drinking water in time.”

According to data from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the average person in the Netherlands uses around 128 litres of water a day in their home. By 2025, the Dutch government wants to see this figure reduced to 100 litres per person per day.

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