There is a good chance that, due to climate change, there will be more frequent periods in the future in which less water flows through the Meuse, which could pose a risk to the drinking water supply in both Belgium and the Netherlands. This is reported by RIWA-Maas, the representative of drinking water companies in the Netherlands and Belgium that extract 500 billion liters of water from the Meuse every year. The Meuse is the source of drinking water for more than 7 million people.

    The representative has commissioned knowledge institute Deltares to conduct research into the expected future availability of Meuse water. The reason for the research is the low water discharge of the Meuse in recent years and the concern that the impact of climate change will have an extra negative effect on the water levels of the river.

    In almost all the studied climate scenarios and for all the locations studied on the Meuse, longer periods of low discharges emerged from the study for the summer period. “The results of this study are worrying,” says RIWA-Maas director Maarten van der Ploeg. “We must increasingly take into account the fact that climate change will have a lasting negative impact on both the quantity and quality of our drinking water.”

    extra vulnerable

    At low water, the river is extra vulnerable to incidents or (industrial) discharges, because contaminants are diluted less and are hardly discharged, RIWA-Maas indicates. According to the advocate, this could lead to drinking water companies having to put a temporary stop to the intake of Meuse water more often in the future. “A prolonged interruption of water intake could endanger the drinking water supply of seven million people,” says Van der Ploeg.

    According to Van der Ploeg, 2050 seems far away. “But we have already seen a long-term lower water discharge in recent summers. That is why, as far as we are concerned, the report is also a reason for other parties to take action. We must enter into discussions with governments, water managers, research institutes and water users at national and international level in order to jointly reach better and tougher agreements about the management of the Meuse and its tributaries. And to take joint measures to reduce pollution from industrial discharges, for example.”