It is drier than ever in the Netherlands. Streams and ditches fall dry, the groundwater evaporates fast and the water quality decreases. And summer is yet to begin. 

But it rained so much last night, right?

Extreme drought in the Netherlads

Yes, but last night’s storm, although refreshing, was not enough to replenish the whole dry spring of 2020. If the precipitation deficit continues, it can cause problems. Farmers in particular long for rain, according to Thomas Vermeulen of Buienradar. “It can be problematic for crops, because groundwater is not replenished,” says Vermeulen. And if the drought lasts longer, they will have to spray and pump water from ditches, as was the case in 2018.


The rain of the past few days was necessary, but not nearly enough to bring the water level back up to standard. Dick Groenendijk from PWN says that:

It should actually rain every day for a month!

All water managers in the Netherlands yearn for sufficient rain showers in June and July, because it is too dry. “We have experienced the driest month of May in history,” says the Brabantse Delta water board.

Mr Vermeulen agrees with that. “We measured the driest spring ever. On average across the country, there is now a rainfall deficit of more than 130 millimeters. During the driest year ever recorded, in 1976, the deficit was about 105 millimeters in May.”


Extreme drought in the NEtherlands

What is the precipitation deficit?

Whether there is a precipitation deficit depends on two major factors: evaporation and precipitation. Water evaporates, but how much depends on the sun, wind power and humidity. If water evaporates, but nothing falls back down, the water in the soil will not be replenished and drought will develop over time.

That drought has quite a few consequences. For example:

  • The water in rivers and canals drops, making ships less able to sail.
  • The chance of algae in the water is also greater, which reduces the quality of the bathing water.
  • Furthermore, it ensures a low water level of canals and a reduced flow of surface water, which can lead to odor nuisance and fish mortality.
  • Crops can also wither or grow less and drought increases the risk of wildfires.