Water Technology

Protecting lives and livelihoods from flooding is just one element of the Dutch approach to water management. After all, the world needs clean water. Whether the Dutch are turning wastewater into crisp drinking water or innovating drop-irrigation methods in greenhouses or on farms, the Dutch approach to water technology is second to none.
Whether the Dutch are turning wastewater into crisp drinking water or innovating drop-irrigation methods in greenhouses or on farms, the Dutch approach to water technology is second to none.
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  • History

    The Netherlands is densely populated, and has a great deal of industrial and agricultural activity. As a result, the sources for drinking water, both underground and on the surface, are exposed to many threats.

    However, because the Netherlands is in this position, Dutch water companies have learned to use advanced technology to turn dirty water into pure, healthy drinking water that does not have any chlorine or added fluoride.

    The Netherlands’ water pipe system has a leakage rate of between 3 percent and 5 percent, well below other European nations’ average of 10 percent, due in large part because of sensor technology and regular maintenance.

    Learn more about the history of Dutch water management by swiping through the panels on your mobile device or clicking the dots below.

    The Netherlands is densely populated, and has a great deal of industrial and agricultural activity. As a result, the sources for drinking water, both underground and on the surface, are exposed to many threats.

    However, because the Netherlands is in this position, the Dutch have learned to use advanced technology to turn dirty water into pure, healthy drinking water that does not have any chlorine or added fluoride.

    Learn more about the history of Dutch water technology by swiping through the panels.

  • Water Mains in Amsterdam

    The first water mains were built in 1853 in Amsterdam, where water was pumped from the sand dunes because of the filtering properties of the fine sand. The cities of The Helder, The Hague and Rotterdam followed soon after. The first water closet was connected to a sewer system in 1900, and construction of a sewage system began in Amsterdam in 1910.

    The first water mains were built in 1853 in Amsterdam, where water was pumped from the sand dunes because of the filtering properties of the fine sand. The first water closet was connected to a sewer system in 1900, and construction of a sewage system began in Amsterdam in 1910.

  • Connected Cities

    By 1949, more than 710 of the 1,054 municipalities in the Netherlands were connected to the main water supply, meaning that 75 percent of the Dutch population had access to public water. By 2009, nearly 99 percent of all Dutch households were connected to a sewage network.

    By 1949, more than 710 of the 1,054 municipalities in the Netherlands were connected to the main water supply, meaning that 75 percent of the Dutch population had access to public water.

  • Today's Technology

    In addition to sand filtration, the Dutch now employ techniques such as ozonisation and activated charcoal to purify water without the use of chlorine.

    New technologies, such as membrane filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection (pictured), thoroughly clean the water of micro-contaminants. It’s no coincidence that many of these techniques were developed in the Netherlands.

    However, the Dutch also has extensive knowledge of cost-effective desalination technology. Desalination, when combined with membrane filtration and distillation, is an effective solution for countries in delta regions that lack sufficient supplies of fresh water.

     

    New technologies, such as membrane filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection (pictured), thoroughly clean the water of micro-contaminants. It’s no coincidence that many of these techniques were developed in the Netherlands.

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  • Wastewater Treatment

    Ever since the first water closet was connected to a sewer system in 1900, the Dutch have continued to innovate in the field of wastewater treatment. Because cities in the Netherlands are so densely populated, the Dutch are constantly looking for new and better ways to treat wastewater using less space and at less expense.

    Whether the wastewater comes from bathrooms and showers, hospitals, or industrial plants, and no matter how dirty the water is, the Dutch can clean it.

    Wastewater Treatment

    Ever since the first water closet was connected to a sewer system in 1900, the Dutch have continued to innovate in the field of wastewater treatment.

    Whether the wastewater comes from bathrooms and showers, hospitals, or industrial plants, and no matter how dirty the water is, the Dutch can clean it.

  • Granular Sludge Reactor

    The conventional process to treat wastewater is expensive, and the plant and equipment necessary takes up a lot of valuable land. But the Dutch have developed a state-of-the-art process that is faster, cleaner and less expensive.

    The Nereda technology, developed by Delft University of Technology, consulting and engineering firm DHV, the Foundation for Applied Water Research and six water authorities in the Netherlands, uses compact granules instead of the conventional flakes to treat wastewater.

    The Nereda process is based on a group of micro-organisms that form compact sludge granules that quickly sink to the bottom. This enables household wastewater to be purified four times faster than traditional technologies, resulting in energy savings of more than 20 percent. Meanwhile, the treatment process is faster and takes up less space.

    Granular Sludge Reactor

    The Nereda technology uses compact granules instead of the conventional flakes to treat wastewater.

    The process is based on a group of micro-organisms that form compact sludge granules that quickly sink to the bottom. This enables household wastewater to be purified four times faster than traditional technologies.

  • Sewage Mining

    Most of us never give a second thought to the water that we flush down the toilet or that empties in the drains of our shower and sinks.

    But some of us do, including Charlotte van Erp Taalman Kip, an innovation technologist for Waterschap Hollandse Delta. She is involved in an innovative research project with TU Delft, RU Nijmegen and Paques that is exploring ways to remove all the nutrients from wastewater in an economical way.

    She delivered a speech at the 2012 TEDxBinnenhof, “How to Turn Waste Water into a Goldmine,” and explained how many of the elements from the periodic table can be found in waste water.

    In fact, she explained how she sees fibers, energy, fertilizers and fresh water in the water people flush away every day.

    The potential is huge, as long as researchers can figure out a way to efficiently extract the nutrients. In any given year, “sewage mining” could yield: phosphate, paper cellulose, algae, nitrogen and more.

    Sewage Mining

    Charlotte van Erp Taalman Kip, an innovation technologist for Waterschap Hollandse Delta, is involved in an innovative research project with TU Delft, RU Nijmegen and Paques that is exploring ways to remove all the nutrients from wastewater in an economical way.

    She delivered a speech at the 2012 TEDxBinnenhof, “How to Turn Waste Water into a Goldmine,” and explained how many of the elements from the periodic table can be found in waste water.

  • Concentrated

    One of the latest developments in the Netherlands is the practice of keeping industrial and household wastewater concentrated, and no longer diluting it with, for example, rainwater. The concentrated wastewater is then processed using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic techniques. The advantage of anaerobic techniques is that they are small and compact, and generate energy in the form of biogas.

    Good examples of this method of biogas generation include the pilot project in the Dutch town of Sneek, where human waste is anaerobically digested, as well as the Dutch beer producer Grolsch, which anaerobically converts its effluent into biogas for the engine room.

    However, strict European water requirements also specify that nitrate and phosphate must be removed from water. Thanks to Dutch researchers at Delft University of Technology, Anammox bacteria are available to convert nitrate into nitrogen gas in the air.

    Phosphate can also be recovered, which is interesting because of the expected shortage of phosphate. Employing Anammox (pictured) bacteria in local systems is an ideal solution for countries and rural regions that do not have a sewage network.

    Concentrated

    One of the latest developments in the Netherlands is the practice of keeping industrial and household wastewater concentrated, and no longer diluting it with, for example, rainwater.

    The concentrated wastewater is then processed using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic techniques (pictured). The advantage of anaerobic techniques is that they are small and compact, and generate energy in the form of biogas.

  • Industrial Water

    Pharmafilter is a project of STOWA, a Dutch acronym for the Foundation for Applied Water Research, in which industrial waste from hospitals is processed on site.

    Shredders are installed in the hospital and replace the conventional bedpan washers, as well as in places where waste is generated. Almost all types of waste is shredded and flushed by the existing sewer system. An installation is set up outside the hospital that  ferments and decontaminates the solid waste, thereby producing biogas.

    All waste water is purified and cleaned of medicinal residues. Pharmafilter makes it economically and environmentally feasible to innovate processes in the hospital with the introduction of biodegradable, disposable products instead of products that need to be sterilized after each use, such as bedpans, urinals and cutlery.

    Industrial Water

    Pharmafilter is a project of STOWA, a Dutch acronym for the Foundation for Applied Water Research, in which industrial waste from hospitals is processed on site.

    Shredders are installed in the hospital and replace the conventional bedpan washers, as well as in places where waste is generated. Almost all types of waste is shredded and flushed by the existing sewer system.


  • Efficient Use of Water

    The Earth is often called the blue planet for an obvious reason: it’s mostly water. But the vast majority of that water — 98 percent — fills the planet’s oceans and is unsuitable to drink because of its salt content.

    That means just 2 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, or sweet, as the Dutch refer to it. And with most of that 2 percent locked up in polar ice caps, humans have a small fraction of the world’s water available for use.

    In other words, people must use water as efficiently as possible to ensure the world has enough to go around.

    Just 2 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, or sweet, as the Dutch refer to it.

    And with most of that 2 percent locked up in polar ice caps, people have a small fraction of the world’s water available for use.

  • Dacom TerraSen™

    The Dacom TerraSen™ system has a sensor that measures  moisture in the soil at various depths in 10 cm increments, a rain gauge, and a Dacom Sensor Gateway that radios all the data to the central database in Emmen, the Netherlands, from any location in the world.

    This data is combined with scientific models and weather forecasts to advise farmers when to irrigate and how much, achieving savings in water and fertilizer use up to 50 percent.

    Dacom is a Dutch family-owned business that develops and supplies specialized agri-yield management systems to arable farmers and multinationals worldwide. In 2011, Dacom was elected most innovative small- and medium-sized enterprise  in the Netherlands.

    The Dacom TerraSen™ system has a sensor that measures  moisture in the soil at various depths in 10 cm increments, a rain gauge, and a Dacom Sensor Gateway that radios all the data to the central database in Emmen, the Netherlands, from any location in the world.

    This data is combined with scientific models and weather forecasts to advise farmers when to irrigate and how much, achieving savings in water and fertilizer use up to 50 percent.

  • Recycling rain

    Water treatment specialist Hatenboer has developed a system for Electrabel, a Belgium-based energy company, that treats rain and condensation, eliminating the need to use tap water to produce steam to generate electricity.

    The system enables Electrabel to save 40,000 cubic meters of drinking water every year.

    Water treatment specialist Hatenboer has developed a system for Electrabel, a Belgium-based energy company, that treats rain and condensation, eliminating the need to use tap water to produce steam to generate electricity.

  • Condensed Water

    Tata Steel (formerly Corus), an international steel manufacturer, owns one of the largest water purification plants in the Netherlands.

    Water that cools the equipment evaporates and is captured as vapor in cooling towers from which it condenses, allowing the water to be reused. This technique has reduced water consumption by 70 percent.

    Tata Steel (formerly Corus), an international steel manufacturer, owns one of the largest water purification plants in the Netherlands.

    Water that cools the equipment evaporates and is captured as vapor in cooling towers from which it condenses, allowing the water to be reused. This technique has reduced water consumption by 70 percent.

  • Closing the Water Cycle

    Closing the water cycle is becoming increasingly important in the Netherlands when producing suitable industrial water, such as demineralized water at the chemical company Dow.

    Desalinating seawater to create demineralized water requires a great deal of energy, which is why the effluent from a sewage treatment system is used as a source for demineralized water.

    Bacteria clean this water in a membrane bioreactor until it reaches a certain quality. The water cycle is then closed even further because the demineralized water can be reused as cooling water in the chemical factory.

    A consortium of Dutch companies and knowledge institutions are working to further refine the techniques used to close the water cycle. Plants can also be operated remotely. An engineer from the company visits the plant to have a look in person no more than once a week. Dutch companies operate treatment and processing plants in locations as far away as Jordan.

    Closing the water cycle is becoming increasingly important in the Netherlands when producing suitable industrial water, such as demineralized water at the chemical company Dow.

    Desalinating seawater to create demineralized water requires a great deal of energy, which is why the effluent from a sewage treatment system is used as a source for demineralized water.

    Bacteria clean this water in a membrane bioreactor until it reaches a certain quality. The water cycle is then closed even further because the demineralized water can be reused as cooling water in the chemical factory.

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  • Drinking Water

    99.9 percent of Dutch households have access to clean, chlorine-free drinking water.

    Numerous Dutch companies are recognized specialists in the treatment of industrial wastewater, and several consultancies are globally renowned for their water treatment expertise.

    Dutch academia and the private sector invest heavily in water-related research and development, which has resulted in innovations in areas like filtration. Built on four centuries of hard-earned experience, the Dutch are unrivaled in areas such as drinking water production, water distribution, sewage management, and wastewater treatment.

    Drinking Water

    Numerous Dutch companies are recognized specialists in the treatment of industrial wastewater, and several consultancies are globally renowned for their water treatment expertise.

    Dutch academia and the private sector invest heavily in water-related research and development, which has resulted in innovations in areas like filtration.

  • Membrane Technology CeraMac

    The purification of water can now be more sustainable and cheaper thanks to Dutch PWN Technologies.

    It has long been possible to filter water from an organic solution, such as ethanol or hexane, using polymer membranes. The use of ceramic membranes, however, is much more sustainable as they have a longer lifespan and are easier to clean.

    Experiments have been going on with these membranes for some time, but until recently they have simply been too  expensive to produce.

    PWN, however, has developed new ceramic membranes that drastically reduce production and investment costs. Construction has begun in the Netherlands on a CeraMac a purification plant that has a capacity of 120 million liters per day.

    Membrane Technology CeraMac

    The purification of water can now be more sustainable and cheaper thanks to Dutch PWN Technologies.

    It has long been possible to filter water from an organic solution, such as ethanol or hexane, using polymer membranes. The use of ceramic membranes, however, is much more sustainable as they have a longer lifespan and are easier to clean.

  • Sensor Technology Legionella chip

    Legionella bacteria can be a serious threat to public safety, but a partnership of Vitens, TNO and the Kennemerland Regional Laboratory in the Netherlands has developed a method of quick detection.

    The Legionella chip works with biomarkers based on DNA technology, and can identify the presence of the harmful bacteria in four to six hours — down from the previous 12 days.

    It can detect the difference between harmless and disease-causing Legionella bacteria. As well as increasing speed and accuracy, this technology significantly reduces testing costs.

    Sensor Technology Legionella chip

    Legionella bacteria can be a serious threat to public safety, but a partnership of VitensTNO and the Kennemerland Regional Laboratory in the Netherlands has developed a method of quick detection.

    The Legionella chip works with biomarkers based on DNA technology, and can identify the presence of the harmful bacteria in four to six hours — down from the previous 12 days.


Water in a Changing World

The world’s population continues to grow, and so does the need for clean water. But the Dutch have the experience to change with it.

The world’s population continues to grow, and so does the need for clean water. But the Dutch have the experience to change with it.


  • Relevance for the US

    The Dutch enjoy the taste of their pure tap water, and are happy to share it and the technology that creates it with partners around the world.

    While officials and industry leaders in the United States often look toward the Netherlands to find experts in flood protection, they can also find experts in treating waste water and delivering quality drinking water.

    Relevance for the US

    The Dutch enjoy the taste of their pure tap water, and are happy to share it and the technology that creates it with partners around the world.

  • Much waste, little space New York uses SHARON system to treat water

    A wastewater treatment plant on  Wards Island in New York is using patented technology from the Dutch company Grontmij.

    The system is called SHARON, which stands for stable high ammonia removal over nitrite, and it treats nearly 1.9 million gallons of rejection water a day. Rejection water is nitrogen-rich residue water that is released from a sewage treatment plant when processing sludge.

    The process is an integral part of New York City’s nitrogen-reduction program designed to make several sewage treatment plants in and around New York more sustainable.

    Much waste, little space New York uses SHARON system to treat water

    A wastewater treatment plant on  Wards Island in New York is using patented technology from the Dutch company Grontmij.

    The system treats nearly 1.9 million gallons of rejection water a day, and is an integral part of New York City’s nitrogen-reduction program designed to make several sewage treatment plants in and around New York more sustainable.

  • Predicting water main breaks No excavation required

    Water distribution pipes last an average of 40 years, but predicting precisely when they need to be replaced remains unpredictable until they break. One section of the pipe could be strong and stable, but a section just a few yards away could be on the verge of collapse.

    But a new system under development by WetsusVitensKWR Watercycle Research InstituteApplus, and the University of Twente aims to fix that problem.

    The system allows inspectors to examine water pipes based on data (measured by sensors) without digging up streets. The various methods being tested have a goal of testing about a kilometer of pipes for about $650.

    Predicting water main breaks No excavation required

    A new system under development by WetsusVitensKWR Watercycle Research InstituteApplus, and the University of Twente allows inspectors to examine water pipes based on data (measured by sensors) without digging up streets.

    The various methods being tested have a goal of testing about a kilometer of pipes for about $650.

  • Biogas from ice cream

    The Dutch company Paques has developed a bio-composter that purifies waste from milk, cream, proteins, syrups and fruit that are leftover from making ice cream.

    Unilever is using the Paques bio-composter in its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in the Netherlands. The water products from the world-famous ice cream can be converted into enough biogas to provide 40 percent of the energy requirements for the ice cream factory.

    All of the hard work is done by natural micro-organisms. The bio-composter is unique in that it processes wastewater that contains fat and oil at the same time as biodegradable elements.

    Looking for more information? Check out our resourcescontact us, or read about the Dutch expertise in delta technology.

    Biogas from ice cream

    The Dutch company Paques has developed a bio-composter that purifies waste from milk, cream, proteins, syrups and fruit that are leftover from making ice cream.

    Unilever is using the Paques bio-composter in its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in the Netherlands. The water products from the world-famous ice cream can be converted into enough biogas to provide 40 percent of the energy requirements for the ice cream factory.

    Looking for more information? Check out our resourcescontact us, or read about the Dutch expertise in delta technology.