Will it get drier and where?
The Netherlands regularly experiences dry periods. The temperature is rising due to climate change and therefore more water is evaporating. An extra amount of water evaporates during sunny and warm weather. We also use a lot of water. We need water to drink, shower, cook and wash. But agriculture and livestock farming also use a lot of water for producing vegetables, fruit and meat.
Where has it become drier? At the coast, the amount of rainfall has increased between April and September. Inland, the amount of rain has remained the same or decreased. The drought problems are therefore greater for certain parts of the Netherlands.
What are the dangers of drought?
Peat dikes can collapse during drought There is then a risk of flooding for residents behind the dike. Dike inspectors check for cracks more often or keep dikes wet to prevent cracks. Groundwater levels drop due to drought. Peat soils dry out. This causes the peat to rot (oxidise), a lot of CO2 is released and the ground subsides.
There is a greater risk of wildfires when forests become drier due to high levels of evaporation. To extinguish wildfires, it is important that there is sufficient water in ponds and lakes. The recovery of a nature reserve after a fire takes years. We need forests and heathland for biodiversity and leisure.
Wooden foundation poles of houses fall dry Poles rise above the groundwater when it is too dry. The wood of the poles then comes into contact with oxygen. The poles then become mouldy and rot (pole rot). This causes homeowners a lot of stress, because the repair costs are very high.
Drought and your health
In coastal areas, drought can cause the ground to become saltier due to seawater intrusion. Anticipate this by growing plants and crops that tolerate saline soil. Sea kale, glasswort and some varieties of potato also grow on saline soil. It is still unclear whether the Netherlands as a whole will on average become drier in the future.
Fresh water becomes scarce in the summer. It is especially in this period that the demand for water is high for agriculture, cooling water, swimming water and drinking water. When there is too little rain, extra groundwater or surface water is pumped up. This results in both local drought, which can blow away fertile soil, and in poor water quality.
In addition, in some parts inland, less water can be supplied from rivers. Supply from rivers is important to maintain the groundwater level and thus prevent drought. This is especially important next to the rivers. A low river level also creates problems for inland shipping.
When it is dry, there is more particulate matter in the air, because rain doesn't clear the air. More particulates in a dry period are a burden for people with lung problems. A lot of car traffic, wood stoves, barbecues and open fires are strong polluters. By minimising the use of these pollutants, the particulate matter concentration can be reduced.
Dust clouds consist of fine particles of dust, soil, sand and micro-organisms such as bacteria, spores or fungi. Dust clouds can be created by strong winds on bare (agricultural) land during drought or after a fire. Dust clouds can reduce visibility in traffic. People may suffer from lung problems when breathing in dust. In such a dust cloud, the fertile layer of the soil disappears, which can cause economic damage in agriculture.
After periods of drought, heavy rainfall can cause outbreaks of infectious diseases. Manure and sewage overflows contain pathogens and wash into ditches and groundwater. This water may end up on the street. Water quality can also deteriorate. Evaporation of water in a dry period causes higher concentrations of substances in surface water. This in turn can affect drinking water supplies.
Underground power cables are cooled with groundwater. When the groundwater level drops due to drought, the cables are no longer cooled. To prevent overheating, there is a restriction on the transport of electricity. This can lead to power shortages.
What can I do against drought?
- Especially in dry weather, people with lung problems are more affected by strong air pollutants such as car traffic, wood-burning stoves, barbecues and fireplaces. Keep this in mind and pay attention to the stookalert (wood burning warning system).
- Waste in natural areas can cause a wildfire (think of glass reflection in dry grass). Therefore, always dispose of your waste in a rubbish bin. No bins available? Take it home and throw it away. Smouldering material, such as a cigarette butt or a barbecue in the forest, is also dangerous for nature and forbidden during drought.
- By collecting rainwater, either underground or in a rain barrel, you create a water reserve. In times of drought, you can use this to keep your garden beautiful and healthy without having to use a lot of drinking water.
- Many plants can withstand a little drought. Keep this in mind when buying plants. This way, you do not have to water your plants every day in summer. If you do water, do it early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Keep an eye on the news for the heat plan, heating alerts and emergency weather codes after or during periods of drought.
To reduce the impact of droughts, the government is taking measures. The measures are to retain water, transport water and use less water. In dry periods, the water managers supply fresh water, from rivers and from the IJsselmeer. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the water boards and the provinces jointly determine where the limited available water goes.
Greenery covers the soil against drying out and retains moisture. In built-up areas, the government provides more (small) parks and green areas. In this way, rainwater can sink into the ground instead of flowing into the sewers. And the soil will build up a reserve for dry periods.
Delta Programme Freshwater The government expects more frequent problems with drought in the future. The demand for freshwater is likely to increase and the climate is changing. The government has drawn up a Delta Decision on Freshwater as part of the Delta Programme. This provides more clarity on the availability of water.
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