The Netherlands’ lakes and rivers still contain high quantities of herbicides and pesticides and there has been no improvement in water quality over the past 10 years despite government pledges, according to research by campaign group Natuur & Milieu.

The organisation asked Leiden agency CML to look into water samples from 153 nature reserves and popular recreational areas. Scientists found pesticides in 80% of the samples and in 40% there was more than the official limit. 

In some places, the volume of poison was 100 times the regulatory maximum, which Natuur & Milieu described as “alarming”. The researchers were looking for 38 different chemicals used in agriculture.

“The Netherlands is a major user of pesticides and you see the results of that in water,” spokeswoman Berthe Brouwer said.

“Animals and plants become ill and die. Normally water is self-cleaning but this does not happen anymore because of the damage. We are extremely worried. We need more effective measures to protect our water.”

In 2013 the government pledged to slash pesticide volumes in surface water by 90%, Natuur & Milieu said.

Half the samples in the survey contained the herbicide glyphosate which is known to pose a risk to humans, insects and water quality. According to the WHO glyphosate is probably carcinogenic and affects the brain. 

European member states will soon vote on re-authorising the use of glyphosate in Europe for the next 15 years and Natuur & Milieu is calling on outgoing farm minister Pieter Adema to vote against the plan.

The campaign group also wants the government to introduce a ‘toxicity tax’ as Denmark has done. 

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