To maintain the safety of our drinking water supply it is essential that clear licencing policies are established and implemented. Following the 2015 pyrazole leakage incident, which saw the Maas deemed unfit for use as a drinking water source for a time, Royal HaskoningDHV was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to conduct an exploratory study looking at the quality of current water management practices with specific focus on permits.

Central concepts the team considered include direct discharges, surface water quality, general assessment methodology (ABM), immunity test, highly hazardous substances (ZZS) and emerging substances. They also investigated the extent to which regulations are applicable to emerging substances, both on the drinking water side and on the side of water management.

In order to understand how assessment of these substances for licensing is carried out, Royal HaskoningDHV conducted a wide-ranging survey amongst the competent authorities. Based on the results of this survey, a series of interviews was held with key stakeholders on the processes around substance policy to gather a representative view of the quality of licensing practice in relation to regulated discharges.

The study concluded that the implementation of substance policy could be improved. Especially with regard to the level of knowledge of the reviewers of (in) direct discharges where feasible improvements could be made. This aspect of the water industry has not yet received sufficient attention and not all organizations and licensors are aware of the importance of proper implementation of the substance policy.

Although the Minister of Infrastructure and Environment has confidence in the water quality policy, Royal HaskoningDHV’s research has confirmed that improvements must be made to the implementation. The assessment of emerging substances will be governed by better licensing and through targeted monitoring and research. In addition the assessment of indirect discharges, for which provinces and municipalities are the competent authority, needs significant improvement.