For human pharmaceuticals, sewage treatment plants (STPs) are a major point of entry to surface waters. The receiving waters provide vital functions. Modeling the impact of STPs on susceptible functions of the surface water system allows for a spatially smart implementation of abatement options at, or in the service area of, STPs. This study was performed on a nation-wide scale for the Netherlands. Point source emissions included were 345 Dutch STPs and nine rivers from neighboring countries. The Dutch surface waters were represented by 2511 surface water units. Modeling was performed for two extreme discharge conditions. Monitoring data of 7 locations along the rivers Rhine and Meuse fall mostly within the range of modeled concentrations. Half of the abstracted volumes of raw water for drinking water production, and a quarter of the Natura 2000 areas (European Union nature protection areas) hosted by the surface waters, are influenced by STPs at low discharge. The vast majority of the total impact of all Dutch STPs during both discharge conditions can be attributed to only 19% of the STPs with regard to the drinking water function, and to 39% of the STPs with regard to the Natura 2000 function. Attributing water treatment technologies to STPs as one of the possible measures to improve water quality and protect susceptible functions can be done in a spatially smart and cost-effective way, using consumption-based detailed hydrological and water quality modeling.
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