Two years after Blue Deal launch, much remains to be done to tackle water shortages
Two years after the launch of the Blue Deal by the Flemish government, Flanders still does not have its water problem under control. That is what policy officer at Natuurpunt Luc Vervoort said on Radio 1 on Friday. "There are some good initiatives, but most of the work is not yet done," he said.
According to Vervoort, larger areas with flooding and infiltration will have to be cleaned up.
"With small projects we can do some things, but with that alone we are not going to make it." Only the 'not in my backyard principle' stands in the way of scaling up, he said. "Everyone thinks water should have a place, but preferably not on their land."
Two years ago, the Flemish government launched the Blue Deal to make Flanders resilient to drought and water shortages. Flanders is a region with relatively little water, but it consumes a lot. The high degree of paving, the fact that little rainwater can infiltrate as well as the historical straightening of streams and rivers make Flanders vulnerable to periods of drought.
"We are stuck with pilot projects that are carried out voluntarily," says Natuurpunt, the nature conservation association active in Flanders and Brussels. "It looks like we are heading for the fifth extremely dry year in six years. A faster turnaround is needed. The only way to do that is through stricter legislation and financial incentives."
According to Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir, important steps have already been taken on several fronts, but there is certainly still work to be done. "We have only just started. We must continue on this momentum and scale up further where possible," she says.
Various initiatives have been launched recently. For example, there is the water scan, which allows individuals and companies to find out how much water they are consuming and how this can be done more sustainably. Although minister Demir initially spoke of an obligation in 2022 for large consumers and companies with a large paved surface, this is not yet the case.
Just before the summer recess, the Flemish government also approved a new rainwater ordinance that raises the standards for rainwater wells and makes them mandatory in construction projects. Also, the drinking water companies are already reporting 7 billion litres less water loss through leaks than in 2020, the starting year of the Blue Deal.
The N-VA minister also announced that local authorities and organisations can from now on visit the bluedeal.vlaanderen website, where all useful information is bundled.
"Local authorities and organisations are having more and more questions about the support they can get from Flanders to further scale up the Blue Deal. All useful information is now bundled in one place."
© BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS