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Dutch drinking water and our drinking water system are better than in the United States of America and Great Britain. This is what researchers have written this month in the Science scientific journal. The researchers come from American, British and Swiss universities and research institutions. Moreover, chlorine is not added to our drinking water, which ensures a better taste, less corrosion of pipework and fewer harmful compounds being formed with chlorine.
Chlorine is not required because of extensive purification Chlorine is added to water in the United States of America to counteract bacteria and viruses that may cause disease. There is little proof that adding chlorine to water leads to fewer cases of disease. A comparison between the Netherlands, Great Britain and the United States of America has shown that the Netherlands has a very low risk with regard to these diseases that are spread through water. It has also been shown that adding chlorine or other disinfectants to drinking water does not provide a guarantee of low percentages of cases of disease.
In some European countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, water is supplied without added chlorine as long as there is protection of the sources, good purification and good maintenance of the distribution system. Multiple steps and treatments are gone through with regard to water purification, such as sand filtration, ozone treatment, carbon treatment, filtration through special membranes and treatment with ultraviolet light. If one of these elements or steps is missing or is not managed correctly, disinfectants are added to the water.
Infrastructure and drinking water prices At least half of the pipe network has been replaced in the Netherlands since 1970 and, therefore, pipes are 33 to 37 years old on average. In the United States of America, 22% of the total pipe network is older than 50 years. In Great Britain, the age is unknown of no less than 60% of the network. It is estimated that the average age of the pipes is 75 to 80 years old.
Figures related to leaks indicate the vulnerability of the distribution system. The leak percentage is only 6% in the Netherlands compared to 16% in the United States of America and 25% in Great Britain.
Safe without chlorine The researchers conclude their article by stating that the European proof shows that it is possible to deliver safe water without chlorine as long as multiple steps are involved during the purification process.
• Also read the article in the Volkskrant newspaper about the study into drinking water (in Dutch). • Read the (English) summary of Science (the full article is only available after paying). • Also listen to the interview with Jan Peter van der Hoek, drinking water supply professor at the Delft University of Technology on Dutch radio 1. (in Dutch)