It’s more important now than ever. Dry summers, salinization and the increasingly green Alps. The population is growing, and with it the demand for drinking water. To ensure that the people of Noord-Holland will have enough drinking water in the future, the drinking water company PWN wants to build a so-called ‘climate buffer’. “A supply of about two months.”

    Water factory of PWN – PWN

    It is reminiscent of 2018, when the salt content of the IJsselmeer off the Andijk coastline is so great due to drought that the water is no longer suitable for drinking water.

    So much so that ships have to enter the IJsselmeer to collect low-salt water a little further on. “An exceptional measure,” said former Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen (Water Management) at the time.

    According to Myrthe Fonck, Strategic Advisor Nature at drinking water company PWN, that year ‘pressed us face to face with the facts’. With this in mind, the drinking water company sat behind the drawing board. How do we ensure sufficient quality drinking water?

    Three new reservoirs

    The drinking water company would love to construct three new reservoirs, a so-called ‘climate buffer’ that should serve as a reservoir during thirsty summers. Because the drinking water company now stores the water in two reservoirs, a supply good for 3 to 4 days.

    “And that’s too short, so it’s not actually stock,” says Fonck. And that must change in the future. “We want rexcavate three new basins around the existing reservoirs, which are 20 meters deep are.”

    The released sand will be used to create a nature reserve reed marsh, flood grassland and shallow aquatic vegetation designed to ‘filter’ the water, as it were. It also strengthens the ecology of the IJsselmeer, where fish and water plants can grow. “A supply of about two months, which is a lot more than what we can do now. If we have two dry summers (like in 2018) in a row, we can manage with this.”

    And that is not a superfluous luxury: in recent years it has been dry more often and longer. Still, Fonck has a caveat. “If there is structural salinization, then a climate buffer is no longer a solution. But that is of course an extreme situation.”

    A drawing: the climate buffer for the Andijk coastline – PWN

    And that means that the coastline will undergo a major overhaul in the coming years. To break through the ‘not in my backyard’ culture, the drinking water company involves the village in the plans at an early stage. There is hardly any resistance, let alone angry villagers. Fonck: “We want to make part of the dike accessible, where they can spot birds and enjoy nature. There are also wishes for an anchorage, beach or jetty, where they can recreate locally. The village thinks along, and that it’s nice to see.”

    Not critical

    The Village Council also agrees. “The consumption of drinking water is increasing. They have also explained why they consider it so important, and we also accept that. We also have to be realistic: drinking water is a basic necessity of life, you cannot be critical of that”, says chairman Gerrit van Cologne. Because in North Holland alone, three-quarters depend on the IJsselmeer.

    To prevent salinization, the IJsselmeer has to be rinsed clean, as it were. That solution must come from the Rhine, which originates in Switzerland: the water level in the river must then be raised. As soon as the snow melts in the Alps, the water level in the Rhine and therefore also in the IJssel rises. Only one danger lurks: the Alps are becoming greener due to climate change. The drinking water company PWN therefore wants to respond to this. Also because salt water flows in from the Wadden Sea.

    It is a multi-million dollar operation, Fonck knows. The drinking water company must therefore diligently look for extra resources to make this expansion possible. It is expected that PWN will start building the climate buffer around 2028/2029 – if all goes well.

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