Over the decades, the Netherlands has developed sustainable systems for the production and supply of water and for the collection, treatment and partial reintroduction of “used” water into the system.
Dutch water expertise helps solve global water issues
Climate change, expanding economies, and urbanization are putting the world’s delta populations at risk. Dutch expertise is at hand, however, in the form of hydraulic engineering, flood control, flood protection, foundation technology and infrastructure. The Dutch are renowned for their ability to design and build storm surge barriers and levees, reclaim land through high-tech dredging and engineer entire coastal areas and harbors. The Dutch also excel at river engineering and maintenance and are pioneering climate adaptive construction, which allows houses to be built in flood-prone areas.
At the same time, billions of people worldwide lack access to clean water and sanitary facilities. Dutch water technology, however, is making a difference. Water is collected, filtered and re-cycled with high levels of quality and service in an integrated cycle, with the focus on sustainable economic development. Dutch companies are recognized specialists in the treatment of industrial waste water and several consultancies are globally respected for their water treatment expertise. Dutch academia and the private sector invest heavily in water-related R&D, which has resulted in innovations including membrane technology, anaerobic water purification, membrane bioreactor (MBR – small scale and high quality) and Anammox technology.
Key aspects and strengths
- Two-thirds of the Netherlands would flood if it weren’t for flood protection structures, integrated coastal development and river basin management. Experience in this area, built up over the course of centuries, is in great demand worldwide. Dutch delta technology specialists are currently aiding in the reconstruction of levees in New Orleans and have built flood protection systems in London, Venice and St. Petersburg;
- The Dutch began using innovative waste water treatment techniques in the 1970s. Some 99.9 per cent of Dutch households have access to clean, chlorine-free drinking water. Additionally, the level of re-cycling of industrial waste water is high, and the water is of sufficient quality for use in the food and beverage industries;
- The Dutch are renowned for their integrated water management and multi-disciplinary approach that balances social, economic, environmental and engineering needs. Dutch companies are involved in the sustainable development of low-lying urban agglomerations such as Jakarta and Bangladesh, and coastal development in areas such as Dubai, Vietnam and Romania;
- The Dutch invest heavily in innovation and R&D through public-private partnerships that align the interests and resources of government, business and research partners. These include renowned institutes such as Deltares and Wetsus. Large Dutch private firms are also recognised for their cutting-edge R&D;
- There is strong institutional support and active public-private cooperation that focuses on international cooperation and the creation of water networks. Committed to a better approach to international water management, the Dutch government has signed bilateral agreements to advance integrated water management in countries across the globe.
Facts and figures
- Around 2,000 companies are active in the Dutch water sector, of which 1,500 in water technology and 500 in delta technology;
- Turnover of the Dutch water sector (domestic market and export) was 16.4 billion euros in 2008, of which 57 per cent was earned by water technology companies. Exports amounted to 6.5 billion euros that same year;
- The Delta Works is the world’s largest flood protection project with more than 16,500 kilometres of levees and 300 structures.
www.dutchwatersector.com – Dutch water technology sector;
www.nwp.nl – Netherlands Water Partnership;
www.waterandthedutch.com – Embassy of the Netherlands in the USA;
www.aquanederland.nl – Association of the Dutch water treatment industry (Dutch language only);
www.vewin.nl – Association of Dutch water supply companies (Dutch language only);
www.wetsus.nl – Research institute for sustainable water technology;
www.kwrwater.nl – KWR Watercycle Research Institute;
www.unesco-ihe.org – The world’s largest water education facility is located in Delft.