River basin management and health

A healthy river is good for the health of humans and animals in the river basin and deltas. All substances and water-related pathogens released into a river basin can come into contact with people downstream. Depending on the type of substance or pathogen, and its concentration, humans may be exposed to various risks. For example, pesticides can run off and enter surface water, heavy metals may be released during industrial processes, bacteria that can cause diarrhoea may be spread by people or livestock, or Weil’s disease (leptospirosis) can be spread in surface water by animals such as rats.

Deltares helps river basin management authorities by identifying sources of pollution and the spread of substances using decision-support computer models. Policymakers and management authorities can use the results to assess future scenarios and the impact of possible measures, and then set priorities. However, the human impact, the disease burden, is not yet an integrated component of river basin management. Improved understanding of the water-related disease burden can result in genuinely different management decisions. Deltares is therefore working with a range of other institutes on providing access to calculations of the human disease burden as a result of pollution.