Dutch use water more efficiently

Although the population and the economy are growing, the use of tap water remains stable. Measures taken to enhance efficiency have reduced the annual tap water use per capita by an average 0.7 percent since 1990. In the corporate sector, the efficiency of tap water use improved by an average of more than 3 percent annually.

Per capita tap water use further down

The per capita tap water use by households initially increased from 109 litres in 1970 to a maximum of 149 litres in 1990, but was subsequently reduced to 129 litres in 2011. The reduction was realised as a result of measures taken to use less water for flushing toilets and the introduction of more water-efficient household appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers.

In 2011, households accounted for 72 percent of tap water used in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of water is used for showering and toilet flushing.

Tap water use by households

Household consumption tap water

Water use by private sector more efficient

The amount of water used by the Dutch private sector was approximately at the same level in 2011 as in 1970, although the gross domestic product (GDP) has grown substantially. This is partly due to expansion of the services sector, which uses less water per euro of value added than manufacturing industry.

Today, tap water is used much more efficiently, especially since 1990, when tap water use showed a peak. Water use was reduced almost by half per euro earned in 2011 compared to 1990 and efficiency improved each year by an average of 3.1 percent. Various factors like a growing environmental awareness, specific policy measures, new water-saving technologies, recycling of waste water and substitution of tap water by other water sources prompted by high water prices have contributed to the reduction of water use per euro earned. Tap water use has remained stable since 2005.

Tap water use by private sector

Private sector tap water consumption

Groundwater use also more efficient

The use of groundwater per euro earned was brought down from 2.69 litres in 2004 to 2.35 litres in 2010, a reduction by 13 percent in six years. Arable farming and cattle farming, the paper industry and the rubber and plastic industry use most groundwater: per euro of value added, these sectors extracted the largest volume of groundwater in 2010.

Groundwater use per euro earned, 2010

Groundwater use <<3768k1-4.doc>> per euro earned, 2010

Cor Graveland and Kees Baas


  • Environmental Accounts of the Netherlands 2011 (2012)