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Clean drinking water: now and in the future

Clean and safe drinking water from the tap is often taken for granted in the Netherlands but much has to be done to achieve this. Drinking water companies treat groundwater and surface water from rivers and lakes to make it suitable and safe for drinking. RIVM supports and advises the government on drinking water policy and surveillance, including the protection of drinking water resources.

Risk inventory

In 2014, RIVM made an inventory of current and future risks to the quality of drinking water resources and the measures required to limit these risks. Approximately half of the drinking water resources in the Netherlands are affected by activities, such as agriculture, industry and the presence of earlier soil contamination. Water abstracted at about 25% of locations does not meet the objectives of the European Water Framework Directive and thus requires additional treatment measures to produce safe and healthy drinking water.

Girl drinking from a fountain 

Drinking water protection files

The risk inventory is based on the drinking water protection files, which set out the risks to water quality in specific areas. These files incorporate information from municipalities, provinces, drinking water companies, and water authorities (Water Boards and Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment). This information will enable effective measures to be taken to improve water quality, such as reducing emissions from agriculture and wastewater treatment.


In 2014, RIVM evaluated progress with and the content of the drinking water protection files. The evaluation indicated that the provinces and water authorities are making progress, with more than 90% of the abstraction sites covered in protection files. However, there is concern about progress with the implementation of necessary measures. It is also not clear whether all measures are sufficiently specific to achieve the required water quality objectives. It would seem that some measures need to be tackled nationally for all water abstraction sites.

The evaluation outcomes were used in developing the Drinking Water Memorandum (2014). The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment together with the parties involved has set in motion an improvement process (2015-2016) to tackle concerns. RIVM is closely involved in this process.