Rivers as lifelines

Have you ever thought of taking a drink from the river near your home? How about from the tap? Water management and water quality are themes which influence our daily lives. Waste disposal, water purification, sweet water reservoirs, they are all factors affecting our rivers and ground water. This years’ international water day was themed ‘Water for All’, so we’re taking a look at the water quality of our rivers and taps.

Guaranteeing water quality

Rivers often cross many countries, which makes that many policies on water management in the Netherlands are realized on a European level. European countries have a responsibility in reporting on water quality, checking for chemical residues, water temperature and plants and species living in the river. Besides this, the Netherlands also has its own water governance structure to ensure drinkable water. Last Wednesday, the Netherlands went to vote for the Water Boards, who manage everything ranging from water quality to flood prevention and closely cooperate with for instance Rijkswaterstaat. Besides this they also work with private partners, such as, to stay with the Meuse, RIWA Meuse, which represents water companies who tap rivers as a source of drinking water. Also scientific institutions come into play when it comes clean drinkable water: The Dutch University TU Delft’s WaterLab for instance keeps track of water quality. In other words, a whole ecosystem of partners cooperates to keep the Dutch water drinkable for all.

Drinkable rivers

The drinkability of water is also the focus of the Dutch NGO Drinkable Rivers. Founder Li An Phoa organized a ‘water walk’ along the Meuse last year, from its origins in France to the delta in the Netherlands. Joined by many people living along the river, she gathered samples to check the water for chemical pollutants. The aim is not just to map the water quality, but also to raise awareness and involve people in taking care of their rivers. Li An aims to organize more walks in the future, hoping to also visit the Yangtze in the future for a similar project. Her data from her walks is already being included in water databases, including the Chinese database MyH2O.

Global water quality projects

Of course, the Netherlands is well known for her water expertise. Also in China there is much cooperation in the field of water management. Not only in the area of resilience but also in the field of water quality. Rijkswaterstaat (under the responsibility of the Dutch Ministry of Infastructure and Environment) and the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources have already worked together for over a decade. Chinese ‘River Commissions’, who are responsible for day to day water management, are also involved in this cooperation to decrease public health risks. The cooperation in the Yangtze River area for instance includes managing early warning systems to safeguard the water quality in the river. Meanwhile, in lake Tai there is a focus on monitoring the presence blue-green algae, which can make people very sick when they drink it, using Dutch innovations.