Quality surface water, 2013

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Most bodies of water do not meet the quality requirements as laid down in the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). The ecological quality ranges from moderate to poor. This is the result of the biological evaluation and the presence of various substances.

Interactive chart water quality

Link to the interactive chart water quality where the quality elements and the biological and physico-chemical parameters can be selected.

Evaluation method surface water

The quality of surface water is expressed in the chemical quality and the ecological quality. The ecological quality is predominantly defined by the biological quality, furthermore with the assessment of river basin specific pollutants and the physio-chemical quality. The WFD includes a method to evaluate the quality of surface water:

Ecological quality

Throughout the Netherlands, the ecological quality level ranges between 'moderate' and 'poor, the 'label 'very good' is not assigned. The biological quality of 36 bodies of water is good.

Chemical quality

In half of the bodies of water in the Netherlands, the chemical quality level is adequate. The chemical quality is based on 45 substances specified on the European level.

Main causes

The main causes for the moderate to poor quality of Dutch surface water are:

  • high concentrations of persistent substances due to emissions in the past. The evaluation of the chemical condition and the other relevant substances is not sufficient, due to the presence of persistent substances or emissions from the past decades.
  • Overfertilization with the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. These chemical elements cause algae growth.
  • Water management. Most streams have been straightened and the banks leave very little or no room for the natural habitats of plants and animals. The banks of most lakes and channels are armoured with rocks, making it impossible for ecosystems to develop. The water level is nearly always controlled, which limits the dynamics of the natural environment.
  • The presence of pumping stations and dams. Fish can hardly migrate. Fish passages are constructed to improve this situation.
  • Pesticides cause large-scale death of water flea populations.

The chart with the ecological, chemical, biological or physiochemical quality can be selected. Click on the button with the arrows in the top left corner for the chart viewer. The borders of water board districts and tributary areas can also be selected. You can zoom in on the area you have selected (Legend: Red = poor; Orange = insufficient; Yellow = moderate; Green = good; Blue = very good).


Technical explanation

Name of the data
Responsible institute
Calculation method
Base table
Geographical distribution
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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Quality surface water, 2013 (indicator 1438, version 06,

) www.clo.nl. Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.