Projected impact of climate change and chemical emissions on the water quality of the European rivers Rhine and Meuse: A drinking water perspective

Rosa M.A. Sjerps*, Thomas L. ter Laak, Gertjan J.J.G. Zwolsman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Low river discharges of the rivers Rhine and Meuse are expected to occur more often and more prolonged in a changing climate. During these dry periods the dilution of point sources such as sewage effluents is reduced leading to a decline in chemical water quality. This study projects chemical water quality of the rivers Rhine and Meuse in the year 2050, based on projections of chemical emissions and two climate scenarios: moderate and fast climate change. It focuses on specific compounds known to be relevant to drinking water production, i.e. four pharmaceuticals, a herbicide and its metabolite and an artificial sweetener. Hydrological variability, climate change, and increased emission show a significant influence on the water quality in the Rhine and Meuse. The combined effect of changing future emissions of these compounds and reduced dilution due to climate change has leaded to increasing (peak) concentrations in the river water by a factor of two to four. Current water treatment efficiencies in the Netherlands are not sufficient to reduce these projected concentrations in drinking water produced from surface water below precautionary water target values. If future emissions are not sufficiently reduced or treatment efficiencies are not improved, these compounds will increasingly be found in drinking water, albeit at levels which pose no threat to human health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1682-1694
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume601-602
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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