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Despite extreme weather conditions: Water quality of the Rhine improves again

Despite extreme weather conditions : Water quality of the Rhine improves again

The extreme weather conditions are hard on the Rhine yet the quality of the water is improving. European states that border the Rhine want to cooperate even more closely in the future to cope with the consequences of climate change.

In the future, European countries bordering the Rhine want to cooperate much more closely in coping with extreme low water, flooding and other consequences of climate change. "The drought year 2018 was a clear warning of what we could be facing in the coming years," warned Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) in the run-up to the so-called "Rhine Ministerial Conference" in Amsterdam this Wednesday. The aim is to make the 1,230-kilometer-long Rhine - one of the busiest waterways in the world - and its tributaries more resistant to climate change.

The environmental ministers of Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, the Belgian region of Wallonia and the EU Commission met in Amsterdam on Wednesday. They intend to adopt a joint "Rhine 2040" program for the future to reduce the climate risks of the coming years.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the water quality of the Rhine has improved considerably since 1991: in total, around 20 percent less nitrogen enters the river. The Rhine stretch in NRW is still the most frequented. However, it has been possible to reduce the total annual freight from almost 350 kilotons per year to around 215 kilotons. In addition, significantly fewer pollutants such as metals or pesticides get into the water, which leads to significantly better water quality in the Rhine overall.

According to the Federal Environment Ministry, the states want to agree on more intensive cooperation in monitoring against low water and drought. Last summer demonstrated how scarce the water in the Rhine could become. Inland navigation in all bordering countries, but especially in Germany, suffered from the low water level. In the Netherlands, there were also problems with the drinking water supply.

The countries bordering the Rhine want to reduce the risk of flooding by 15 percent before 2040 by creating additional retention areas for the Rhine waters. This would also create new habitats for many animal species - a "win-win situation" from the point of view of environmental politicians.

New habitats for fish in the Rhine

As well, the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) has for the first time set itself the goal of reducing micro-pollutants in the Rhine - including residues of medicines such as the painkiller diclofenac or of estrogen from the birth control pill - by 30 percent until 2040. These substances cannot be eliminated by sewage treatment plants, but would pollute ecosystems and drinking water.

(Orig. text: Birgit Marschall, Merle Sievers, Translation: ck)