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Providing assistance to provinces, municipalities and water authorities on water-related matters requires specialist knowledge and experience. This means understanding not only water management tasks but also the political and administrative water challenges that the Netherlands will face in the coming years.

Water quantity and flooding

A significant part of the Netherlands lies below sea level, with major rivers traversing the country. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, the Netherlands is susceptible to flooding. Dykes, dunes and embankments serve as crucial defences against water. Water authorities in particular are responsible for managing and maintaining these flood defences, including primary water-control structures. In the upcoming years, water authorities face the daunting task of ensuring these flood defences become future-proof.

Furthermore, climate change is leading to more frequent and intense extreme rainfall events. This will result in increased instances of flooding in both urban and rural areas of the Netherlands. Policymakers are implementing various action plans to mitigate flooding and the adverse effects of flooding. For instance, through climate adaptation measures like increasing green spaces in cities to facilitate faster water drainage. Or water storage solutions, which can also prove valuable during extended periods of drought. The climate scenarios of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), forecasting the probable future climate of the Netherlands, indicate not only wetter winters but also drier summers. This suggests that spatial planning authorities must also consider more effective water storage methods to combat drought.

Water quality

In addition to concerns about water quantity, the Netherlands also faces challenges regarding water quality. While drinking water quality meets standards, significant issues persist with water bodies (including surface water bodies). By 2027, all Member States must adhere to the European Water Framework Directive. This Framework Directive aims to achieve a 'good status' for all waters, including standards for both ecological and chemical quality. In the Netherlands, this encompasses over seven hundred designated 'water bodies', ranging from small streams to two-hundred-kilometre rivers. Groundwater is also covered by this directive. In the coming years, the European Water Framework Directive will require significant attention from all water managers.

How can we help?

Water is a vital element of our physical environment, but it comes with increasing challenges: preventing and limiting flooding and addressing water scarcity. Pels Rijcken has extensive knowledge of these crucial tasks, especially concerning water quality protection and improvement. Additionally, we offer substantial expertise in various other water-related matters, such as procedures involving water extraction permits, discharges, wastewater and environmental emergencies involving water. We have furthermore successfully navigated major dyke reinforcement projects through legal processes, including the Markermeer dykes of the Hollands Noorderkwartier district water board, as well as recent major dyke reinforcement projects along the Waal River of the Rivierenland water authority, including Gorinchem-Waardenburg, Tiel-Waardenburg and Wolferen-Sprok.

In numerous situations, our environmental law attorneys can assist you with water-related inquiries. We ensure that procedures run smoothly and for that reason prefer to be involved as early as possible. By establishing sound legal agreements upfront, we can prevent disputes together. We avoid unnecessary complications and provide answers to specific questions, such as what permits are required for water activities, how to apply the project procedure for project decisions and when an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is necessary.