By creating a Digital Twin of a physical object, it can be easily and efficiently managed within a single digital system. A Digital Twin also allows stakeholders and non-technical experts to engage with complex policy areas more easily. Digital Twins allows users to:

  • collect data for monitoring;
  • create scenarios and analyse virtual representation and statistics; and
  • take evidence-based decisions for both the short and long term, using simplified representations of real-world adaptations.

Download the Deltares paper on Digital Twins

Digital Twins in water-and subsurface management

Digital Twins can also make an impact in water- and subsurface management. They offer management and policy options, and impact assessments at the level of objects and at the level of large environmental systems.

Designing Digital Twins of larger environmental systems and Digital Twins of objects in the environment allows the two to co-operate. This provides users with information on which actions and interventions are needed at the object level. An example is the closure of locks for river basin management. Digital Twins have also been developed for hydraulic structures such as dykes (e.g. Afsluitdijk, Soltegro), storm surge barriers (e.g. Maaslantkering, Aveco de Bondt), quay walls, bridges, and waste-water treatment plants.

Six aspects of Digital Twins

Deltares sees Digital Twins as an evolutionary step, going beyond traditional modelling approaches. In our view, Digital Twins offer an interactive and deeper understanding, thereby allowing for more effective management of water and subsurface systems.

As such, we have identified six critical aspects on what a Digital Twin must include to be classed as such:

  • Interactivity: increased interactivity introduces technically challenging requirements for modelling frameworks to respond in near real-time to changes made by users, such as in scenarios simulations. This allows Digital Twins to act as intelligent actuators in operational management.

  • Integration: integrating different models and tools, that allow interoperability and consistent scaling of data formats.

  • Real physics: physics -based models can be improved or replaced by statistics-based (data-driven) models. Physical system understanding must be incorporated into data-driven techniques.

  • Real data: using real world observations is crucial for the effectiveness of models. Such data should be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR).

  • Social: fostering collaboration and identifying optimal solutions for the diversity of stakeholders. Options include participatory modelling, serious games, and interactive tools such as touch tables.

  • Photorealism: three-dimensional photorealistic data visualisation may lead to a greater and intuitive understanding among a wider audience.

Digital Twins at the heart of Europe’s Digital and Green ambitions

We place great importance on the global, European, and Dutch missions. Our mission-driven way of working helps set our priorities, inspiring both our day-to-day work and long-term goals. Digital Twins are a key European priority for us.

Digital Twins for environmental systems are where the European Union’s Green Deal meets the EU’s digital ambition. They are a cornerstone of the EU’s strategy to support policymakers when facing challenges related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Currently, many R&D European projects contribute to the development of research fields necessary for digital twinning of environmental systems.

We work on a range of global Digital Twin initiatives, and in various local and regional Digital Twin projects tailored for water and subsurface management. Deltares is closely involved in two European Digital Twin initiatives; the Destination Earth and the Digital Twin Ocean.

Destination Earth (DestinE) develops a highly accurate digital model of the entire Earth. The dynamic digital representation incorporates continuously updated climate-, weather-, land use-, and environmental data. It simulates near-real-time and predicts the interaction between natural phenomena and human activities, providing accurate information for decision-making in environmental management, disaster response, and climate change mitigation. As part of the DestinE project, Deltares works on:

The Digital Twin Ocean (EDITO) is a digital representation of the global marine environment, making ocean knowledge available to users ranging from, citizens and entrepreneurs to engineers, scientists, and policymakers. EDITO will facilitate effective strategies for (re)storing marine and coastal ecosystems, a sustainable blue economy, and climate adaptation. As part of the EDITO project, Deltares works on:

  • Applications, including leading the work package on Focus application and coordinating the co-design of the applications.
  • Designing the integration path of the Core Model Suite.
  • Biodiversity assessment by mapping habitat suitability for key species in the Wadden Sea - a Marine Protected Area.
  • Impact assessment of large-scale implementation of shellfish farms in marine environments, such as offshore wind parks, on comparing carbon sequestration scenarios.

Work with us

Deltares is seeking closer collaborations with other institutions to co-create Digital Twins that will solve the most pressing societal problems. We have an open call for partners that share the same vision and ambition. Want to join our Digital Twin revolution? Get in touch with us!


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