The government determines the maximum amount of chemicals and living organisms that may be present in drinking water.

The statutory requirements for drinking water quality are set out in the Dutch  Drinking Water Decree. These requirements include limits for the amounts of lead (10 micrograms per litre of water) and mercury (1 microgram per litre of  water) in drinking water. These requirements are based on the  European Drinking Water Directive. At the end of 2016, an evaluation of the European Drinking Water Directive 98/83 EU was published on this website.

The results of the evaluation indicate that the Drinking Water Directive is a relevant legislative instrument that guarantees drinking water quality in European member states. However, there is room for improvement with regard to the following factors:

  • Quality parameters
  • Risk-based approach
  • Information for consumers
  • Materials that come in contact with drinking water

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment collaborates with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management on these subjects.

Policy for protection of drinking water sources

The Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC) has defined the European framework for ensuring sustainable, safe groundwater and surface water for future generations. In addition to defining objectives for sound ecological status and chemical levels, the WFD also includes objectives for water that is intended for human consumption (Article 7). These objectives aim to maintain the current quality of drinking water sources, avoid deterioration in quality, and improve water quality in the long term with the aim of reducing the amount of effort needed to purify water.

In the Netherlands, the protection of groundwater intended for drinking water production is set out in the Environmental Management Act. Provinces can designate groundwater protection areas around drinking water extraction points, and have done so for nearly all groundwater extraction points in the Netherlands. Within a groundwater protection area, provinces impose additional requirements on the use of crop protection products, for example, or on conducting certain activities. Surface water extractions are protected by environmental quality requirements which are set out in the Water Quality Requirements and Monitoring Decree (BKMW, 2009).

When the WFD came into force, it became clear that the Netherlands has sufficient legislative instruments to protect its drinking water sources, but those instruments were not being sufficiently implemented in practice at that time to achieve the objectives of the WFD (cf. Buitenkamp Van den Brink, and the flood risk management plans in SGBP 2008). A number of bottlenecks in the implementation became apparent, including the following:

  • there are many different parties involved in the protective efforts,
  • there is no shared overview of the risks involved, and therefore no comprehensive awareness of any need to take measures,
  • protection of drinking water sources has not been embedded in spatial planning policy,
  • there is no central management in creating policies for protecting drinking water sources.

For that reason, nation-wide agreements have been made to create regional dossiers on extraction points for public drinking water. In a regional dossier for an extraction point, the stakeholders (municipal authorities, provincial authorities, drinking water companies and water board) identify current and future risks that could affect water quality. These risks could be related to physical factors that affect drinking water, or to policy related to these aspects. The regional dossiers will also include potential measures that have been identified for future attention, which the parties need to reach an agreement on at a subsequent stage. As the dossiers are being compiled, risks and measures that are more appropriately addressed at a regional or national scale will also become apparent. Responsibility for compiling the regional dossiers for groundwater extraction has been assigned to the provincial authorities, while the water boards are responsible for the regional dossiers for surface water extraction. The available regional dossiers were evaluated in 2014. Based on these results, a new protocol for creating regional dossiers and implementation programmes was drawn up by the stakeholders in 2016.