The countries in the Rhine basin have agreed to make the river cleaner in the coming twenty years. For example, pollution from medicine residues, pesticides and industrial substances must decrease by 30 percent. Such goals had also been set in recent years, but it turned out that the water quality had actually deteriorated.
Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen is pleased with the ambition of the countries, just like Gerard Stroomberg from RIWA, the association of river water companies. According to him, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn drinking water into drinking water. “These agreements are much more concrete than the previous ones. Twenty years ago the countries only agreed that the water quality of the Rhine should be ‘better’. Now a percentage is fixed. After five years we can see if it is going well or not. If not, more must be done. “
Agreements about low tide
To achieve that 30 percent, countries need to think better about permits they grant to industry. They also have to think about medicine residues that end up in the river, because with an aging population that increases. In Germany there is a campaign that tells people not to flush medication down the toilet.
In addition to pollution, the Rhine countries also discussed water levels. The risk of flooding must be reduced by 15 percent. “For the first time, agreements have also been made about the drought,” says Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen. “The Rhine, for example, must always remain navigable.” In 2018 that was a problem due to the very low water levels. As a result, the Germans could no longer be supplied with part of their gas stations.
Measures have also been announced for migratory fish in the Rhine. France has promised to build three fish passages in the French part of the river. Earlier in the Netherlands the Haringvliet sluices were opened ajar. As a result, fish species such as salmon can swim freely from the North Sea to Switzerland in the future.
Bas Roels of the World Wildlife Fund is satisfied with this intention, but also has doubts about it. “In 1999 the ambition was that now, by 2020, the salmon would be back in the Rhine. But that has not yet been achieved.”