One day there is excess water 💦, on another there is a shortage — it happened in a span of a month. This is happening on the elevated sandy soils in the Netherlands, where water authorities are already worried about drought. It’s a consequence of a water system that is still largely designed for rapid drainage.
This needs to be changed. In a sharp opinion, Dutch water expert Jos Peters (rightly) states that dehydration is certainly not only caused by a changing climate, but is also a direct consequence of the ‘dewatering machine’ that we have developed in over half a century.
“Straightening the watercourses made many floods a thing of the past, but droughts are a thing of the present. And because we dug so many ditches, their distances were halved. As a result, the soil does not hold water for four months, but only for four weeks”.
According to Peters, the multitude of watercourses makes our sandy landscape very susceptible to drought. The Netherlands is like a colander, with too many large holes. 🪣
According to him, these holes should be closed quickly. In Peters’ view, it is hardly about what we extract from the soil. It’s about what we pump out in winter and spring, which lets water drain. If we want to make the landscape drought-proof, we have to retain the water longer.
Peters certainly has a point, but he ignores all too easily the contribution of groundwater extractions to the desiccation of the sandy landscape. They influence seepage flows and (depending on the water-carrying parcel) lower phreatic groundwater levels.
As Ruud Bartholomeus
, Chief Science Officer at KWR Water, puts it: it’s not a case of either/or, but of both: less extraction and more retention. Only then can we take serious steps towards a drought robust landscape!
The Netherlands is struggling with needless drought: our country is like a colander with too many holes.