Recreation | July 1, 2021

Find out for yourself how healthy the Scheldt is

Find out for yourself how healthy the Scheldt is

At various locations in the river Scheldt, sensors continuously monitor parameters such as temperature, oxygen content and dissolved salt content (salinity) of the water. The results help scientists determine how healthy the Scheldt estuary is. Would you like to find out more?  

Temperature, oxygen content and salinity are important parameters for assessing the water quality of the Scheldt. For the Sparc areas, you can consult these parameters in real time on our website: just click on the right location on the map. We collect data from Ghent to Prosperpolder, near the Dutch border, and update our information every two hours. If you click further, you can compare the current values with the monthly averages: how warm is the water usually at this time of year? Does the water contain less salt or more oxygen than average? By checking the data, you can keep an eye on how healthy the Scheldt is. For English-speaking readers: remember that the Dutch words for temperature, oxygen content and salinity are ‘temperatuur’, ‘zuurstofgehalte’ and ‘zoutgehalte’.

The lungs of the river Scheldt

Water quality in the Scheldt has been under pressure for many years now. This has consequences for life in and around the river. The Sigma Plan – a Flemish government project – and the European LIFE Sparc project are taking steps to turn the tide. An important measure is investing in tidal nature. Mud flats and salt marshes are the lungs and kidneys of a river: they filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the water and enrich it with oxygen. More tidal nature results in more plants, fish and aquatic animals in the Scheldt. The river is slowly returning to its former natural state.

Retaining fresh water

In addition to creating more tidal nature, we also have an influence on the salinity of the water. This is necessary because fresh river water and salt sea water get mixed up in the Scheldt estuary, due to the flow of the tides. Under normal, ‘natural’ circumstances, both types are in balance. But because the Scheldt has been straightened and is lined with dikes, the fresh water is drained too fast at low tide. At high tide, salt water penetrates too far inland. Long periods of drought and rising sea levels also allow salt water to flow further upstream.

A disturbed salinity of the water is detrimental to fauna and flora. For example, the amount of salt in river water influences the way in which aquatic plants and animals absorb chemicals. That is why we take steps to slow down the discharge of fresh water. We create tidal nature and offer the river more room to flow. We also create new wetlands to retain fresh water longer.

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Picture: ©Yves Adams (Vilda)