In addition to the nitrogen crisis that the Netherlands is still struggling with, a second environmental crisis threatens: the Dutch water quality is not in order. The Netherlands is unlikely to meet the European goals that have to be achieved within five years, writes Minister Harbers of Infrastructure and the Environment to the Chamber.
That may soon have “potentially drastic consequences” for projects and decisions, says Harbers. Not only are there a threat of European fines, but projects and developments can also be bottleneck. Harbers does not expect whole sectors to have to be locked, as in the case of the nitrogen crisis.
Previously, the ministers Staghouwer (Agriculture) and Van der Wal (Nature) already wrote to the Chamber that farmers probably will not only have to deal with radical measures because of the nitrogen problems, but also because of the poor water quality.
The water quality has deteriorated a lot in recent times. Despite measures and extra money to deal with the problems, Harbers foresees that the Netherlands does not have its case in order in time. He speaks of a “firm challenge”.
According to the European Water Framework Directive, all groundwater and surface water in Europe must be of good quality by 2027. Streams, ditches, lakes, rivers: they must meet multiple requirements. For example, there are regulations in the field of water quality for plants and animals, but also standards for toxic substances. A ditch or more only meets the requirements when all parts are in order.
From 2027 onwards, where a planned project or economic activity affects the quality of a stream or more or other water, someone can challenge the project via court.
“Comparisons are not right”
At the moment, there is almost no Dutch water that meets all the requirements, writes Harbers. But he fights that the Dutch water quality would not be good at all. According to him, comparisons, in which the Netherlands comes out badly compared to other countries, are also wrong.
“The Netherlands always chooses to measure and assess as fully as possible, using the most recent standards. This shows the best of which additional measures are needed. Because some Member States make different choices in this, a comparison between Member States is made more difficult.”
Harbers further points out that all measures taken to reduce nitrogen emissions will also help to improve water quality. The government parties previously agreed to allocate 25 billion for nature improvement.