The demand for drinking water will increase until at least 2030. The supply is under strain due to climate change and pollution. There are already regional shortages. If measures are not taken, shortages will occur throughout the Netherlands in 2030. There are plenty of potential solutions to prevent a structural shortage of drinking water. The Dutch Government must take the lead on this now in order to arrive at a mix of solutions. This is RIVM’s advice based on research into obstacles and possible solutions for the drinking water supply in the years up to 2030.
Regional shortages occurring already, water shortages everywhere in 2030 if no action taken
RIVM has examined the obstacles and potential solutions for the drinking water supply in the years up to 2030. If no action is taken, all 10 drinking water companies are expected to have shortages in 2030. There are already shortages in some regions and during peak periods: in 2020, there was not enough drinking water to meet demand peaks in Gelderland and Overijssel, in the western part of South Holland and in the province of Groningen.
Dutch Government must take charge amid conflicting interests
There are plenty of potential solutions to prevent a structural shortage of drinking water. It is important that these are implemented as soon as possible. To that end, it is necessary to start actively looking for new areas to extract drinking water now. Due to conflicting interests, however, gathering support for this has become increasingly difficult. One of the reasons for this is that increasing production or extracting in new locations can affect the availability of water for other water users in the surrounding area. Additional extraction also takes up scarce space in our country. The Government must therefore take the lead in balancing the interests of agriculture, shipping, industry, recreation and nature.
Mix of measures required
RIVM recommends focusing on a mix of measures. First, it is important to increase the number of usable water sources and make procedures for new extraction sites faster and less complicated. In addition, effective measures are needed to prevent a water shortage in the long term.
An initial option is to use less drinking water. Another option is to build up larger reserves and retain water for longer, for example by permanently storing more water in the dunes or basins. This could be used during peak demand in the summer. With the Freshwater Delta programme, the Netherlands is aiming to reduce the amount of water that rivers discharge into the sea. Drinking water companies can work together and exchange extra reserves during peak periods.
To guarantee a sufficient drinking water supply, it is also important that our surface water and groundwater are and remain clean. If the quality of our river and groundwater complies with the Water Framework Directive, there is a solid basis for turning that water into drinking water. New innovations, such as extracting drinking water from salt water, could help to address this issue as well.