The latest RIWA-Rijn Annual Report appeared on 6 September in the well-known Dutch and German versions. But on the occasion of our 70th anniversary we have for the first time in a long time also published an English version for all our English speaking colleagues and contacts in Europe and the rest of the world and we are proud to present it today.
In the annual report we describe the water quality of the Rhine with a focus on the substances exceeding the target values of the European River Memorandum. In particular, we pay attention to the impact of gadolinium from MRI contrast agents, lithium which is going to be extracted and processed on a large scale in the Rhine catchment and also to the 4 PFAS from the EFSA opinion.
We also describe the water quality of the Rhine in terms of the removal requirement, or required level of treatment, according to Water Framework Directive (WFD) article 7.3. This year again, the level of treatment required for the production of drinking water in the Rhine is higher than when the WFD started in 2000. A slight reduction is visible at Lobith, but the total level is still higher than aimed for, in this respect the Rhine has not become cleaner.
In cooperation with Vewin, we present a framework for the protection of drinking water sources and the realisation of WFD targets for PMT and vPvM micropollutants by combining existing ideas and legislation. A complete and coherent registration of pollutant emissions (E-PRTR) and more transparency on industrial emissions will reduce the current quality problems for drinking water sources.
This year, 70 years ago, the RIWA was founded on 15 June 1951 with the aim “to study together the problem of the pollution of the Rhine and to advise the Government as one in its further steps to counteract this mishap as far as possible“. On the occasion of our 70th anniversary, we look back at the first years of the Rhine Commission for Water Supply (RIWA) on the basis of archive research by Utrecht University. The picture that emerges from this research is that of an organisation that was one of the first to propagate what later became commonplace in Europe: tackling pollution at source through international cooperation in the river basin. This is still the core of RIWA’s work today.
The English Annual Report 2020 The Rhine can be downloaded here.
On 15 June 2021, the RIWA Association of River Water Companies will reach its 70th anniversary. On that date in 1951 the directors of “four large river water companies in the Netherlands” met for the first time. The aim was “to study together the problem of the pollution of the Rhine and to advise the Government as one in its further steps to counteract this mishap as far as possible”. This 70th anniversary of the protection of the Rhine, and later the Meuse and the Scheldt, as sources for the production of drinking water is perhaps not something to celebrate but it is a message to contemplate: Pollutants that threaten the sources for the production of drinking water must be tackled at the source and internationally.
New challenges continue to present themselves
The water quality of the large rivers has improved in recent decades. The RIWA Association of River Water Companies, which was founded seventy years ago, has made an important contribution to the fight for clean rivers. Over 40 per cent of Dutch drinking water is produced from the water of the Rhine and Meuse rivers. In Flanders, about half of the drinking water is produced from river water. The Water Framework Directive should have been the crowning glory of the improvement in water quality, but meeting those targets is under great pressure. Moreover, new substances continue to end up in the rivers, which prove difficult to remove in the preparation of drinking water.
National and international cooperation
Whereas RIWA first concentrated on extensive measurement and analysis work, it soon developed into an effective interest organisation for the river water companies, both nationally and internationally. That has always been and remains the strength of the association: linking solid measurement data to research and awareness. From the phenol and pesticides of the fifties and sixties to the drug residues and persistent, mobile and toxic substances (PMT substances) and harmful PFAS today. As the founding meeting shows, the first approach was to advise the Dutch government on taking a position in international discussions. Since then, RIWA itself has been an active participant in the various consultative forums of the international river commissions. Over time, the partnership of four Dutch drinking water companies has expanded to include six companies along the Maas and Scheldt rivers, around 120 along the Rhine and around 170 throughout Europe.
Starting at the source
RIWA focuses strongly on combating contamination at the source, by identifying it and by making contact with governments and producers to clean up these discharges. By gaining access to and participation in the permit applications, discharges of pollutants can be reduced and prevented. Together with river water companies in other European river basins, RIWA has developed a strategy and vision for the preparation of drinking water from surface water according to the principles of sustainability, precaution and prevention: the European River Memorandum. From river water that meets these water quality requirements, the Maas and Rhine water companies can prepare drinking water in a sustainable way, using natural purification methods.
The press release can be downloaded here.