The Meuse & drinking water

The River Meuse rises in France and flows over approximately 925 kilometers via Belgium and the Netherlands until it drains into the North Sea. Some 9 million people live in the Meuse river basin which has a surface of more than 34 thousand square kilometers. The division over the various countries and regions are shown in these two pie charts.


Members of RIWA-Meuse examine water quality on some ten measuring points along the river (click for a map). At the intake points water quality is constantly monitored with both chemical analysis as well as biomonitoring. Also every four weeks samples are taken at all measuring points for analysis of a broad number of substances. Every three years the extend of the number of substances analysed is determined: new relevant substances are added and old substances which are no longer of concern are deleted. Every year new developments in science are used to decide whether to add a not yet monitored substance to the list. Also state of the art analytical techniques are used to screen the presence of a wide scale of substances. With these techniques the focus is on detecting whether a substance is present rather than its exact concentration. This is being done in order to get an early warning if substances are suddenly appearing. Furthermore every now and then monitoring zooms in on a substance of concern which is followed throughout the whole river basin. These type of campaigns have been done in the past on substances like Diuron, Glyphosate and Bromide. Usually these campaigns are performed in cooperation with waterboards in the river basin.

Drinking water relevant substances

Various human activities leave their footprint on the water quality in the River Meuse. Water quality of the Meuse has improved strongly for the past decades including for its use as a source for the production of drinking water. General parameters such as oxygen, nutrients and chloride but also heavy metal are no longer an issue for drinking water production. A number of substances however is regularly breeching standards for surface water from which drinking water may be produced or the target values of the water suppliers. Currently we distinguish 19 substances which are drinking water relevant. The method which is used to determine drinking water relevancy and to candidate new substances which might become drinking water relevant is described in this report.

The following issues are relevant when using the River Meuse as a source for the production of drinking water: