Climate change, soil pollution and the shortage of natural resources create challenges in meeting high standards for soil and water systems management. Dutch subsoil is even more intensely used. To keep ahead of these challenges RIVM supports authorities in making regulations for integral and future use.

In a highly populated country such as the Netherlands, combining certain functions on the ground is becoming increasingly difficult. In certain places, there is not enough room for cables, pipes, water storage facilities, protected archaeological sites and other forms of soil use. This together with the ground quality, fertility and water retention facilities also increases the pressure.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to make land use acceptable to the human requirements of water, food, health, energy and recreation. We cannot take water safety, water quality and the availability of drinking water for granted.

Soil and groundwater

Soil and groundwater systems are closely connected. Soil is the nursery of (drinking) water of the future.

These are slow systems and wrong decisions can lead to high costs and years of restrictions of use. Therefore, in order for the Netherlands to be healthy, safe and competitive, the wise use of soil and groundwater is necessary.

RIVM always links soil and water when developing expertise and policy. With our integrated approach, we support authorities by stimulating lasting use of soil and the amenities which the soil and water systems deliver to us. In this area, we are connected to the Framework Directive Water.

Policy fields

RIVM expertise in the scope of soil and water is within the following policy fields benefitting authorities:

To ensure the quality of our soil and water system, the authorities have established standards for substances. Since the 1980’s RIVM has worked to develop Dutch policy and the substantiation of standards. From this background, we advise on policy modifications, such as linking new standards to new substances.

We advise authorities concerning safeguarding drinking water reservoirs, sources and quality. We do this with experts in the field of microbiology (pathogens), radiation, toxicology, epidemiology, hydrology, chemistry and CBRN Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear (Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear) (chemical, biological, radiology and nuclear) substances.


RIVM monitors the chemical quality of groundwater and on-farm surface water with the use of monitoring networks on a national scale. Our objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of Dutch policy measures. We establish whether policy has led to changes and improvement in water quality.  

The Minerals Policy Monitoring Programme monitors at approximately 450 commercial farms the on-farm surface water (ditches) and water leaching from the root zone. The National Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network monitors approximately 350 dedicated monitoring wells groundwater quality with screens at 10, 15, 25 m below soil level. These wells are located in agricultural, natural and urban areas. The data are available on the LMM website.

Until 2014  RIVM also monitored the water quality below nature areas (National Acidification Trend Monitoring Network) and biological and chemical soil quality (National Soil Quality Monitoring Network).