Study launched into salt intrusion and innovative solutions

Published: 22 November 2019

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) recently announced the go-ahead for the launch of the SALTISolutions research programme, which will investigate salt intrusion through surface water. Deltares is one of the initiators of this six-year NWO Perspective Programme. A better understanding of the dynamics of salinisation and the possible measures to limit salt intrusion should lead to a more targeted and natural approach to the management of fresh and salt water in the Dutch delta. This knowledge has international potential in terms of improving the assessment and management of salt intrusion in deltas. The accumulated knowledge will also be tested worldwide, among other places in the Mississippi Delta.

More robust freshwater supplies

Fresh water is crucial for drinking-water supplies, nature, agriculture and industry. But its availability is under pressure. In recent dry summers in the Netherlands, salt seawater penetrated further and further upstream in the rivers, causing problems in, for example, farming, drinking water collection and freshwater-dependent nature. Climate change and sea level rise will exacerbate these problems, possibly affecting the availability of fresh water in the future. Access to fresh water is a concern shared by delta regions worldwide.

Better prepared for the future with the Virtual Delta

Better preparations for both the short and long terms will depend on bringing together models, data flows, potential interventions and input from stakeholders at different temporal and spatial scales. From turbulent currents at the smallest scale to the impact of climate change in the long term. This Virtual Delta includes a ‘digital twin’ model of the Rhine-Meuse estuary that shows the effects of all the measures in SALTISolutions. Wouter Kranenburg, a salt intrusion expert at Deltares: ‘In the Virtual Delta, we are testing the interaction between scientific knowledge, innovative solutions and local interests. We predict how, where, when and for how long salinisation will occur and how measures such as the implementation of nature-based solutions will affect freshwater supplies.’

Deltares information systems at the basis

The basis of the Virtual Delta will be established with Deltares information systems and computer models. New knowledge about processes and measures will be built in to create a realistic ‘digital twin’. Rijkswaterstaat, water authorities, port authorities, drinking-water companies and nature-conservation organisations will soon be able to use the Virtual Delta to work on developing smart measures and making more informed policy choices.

Consortium partners

The SALTISolutions research programme will run for six years and be supervised by Professor J.D. Pietrzak (Delft University of Technology). Funding of 6.5 million euros has been granted for this NWO Perspective programme. The organisations and institutes in the programme are: Arcadis, ARK, Boskalis, Bureau Waardenburg, BAM, Deltares, Evides, Flanders Hydraulics, Port of Amsterdam Authority, Port of Rotterdam Authority, HKV, Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland, Hoogheemraadschap van Schieland en de Krimpenerwaard, Hydrologic, Koninklijk NIOZ, Nortek-NL, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat, Royal HaskoningDHV, STOWA, Svasek, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, Utrecht University, Van Oord, VEMW, VEWIN, Wageningen University, Hollandse Delta Water Authority, World Wildlife Fund