Water Quality Knowledge Impulse: opportunities for faster progress

Published: 22 November 2018

The Water Quality Knowledge Impulse brings together the national government, provincial authorities, water authorities, water companies, research institutes and other stakeholders to make faster progress with improvements in water quality in and around the Netherlands. The ultimate goal is to achieve satisfactory chemical and ecological water quality by 2027.

Water quality is crucial

In early 2016, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) published Water Quality Now and in the Future,  a report that stated that the planned improvement measures for 2016-2021 were very unlikely to result in the desired levels of water quality by 2027. This is the deadline for EU Member States to comply with the targets in the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The difficulties relate both to the composition of water flora and fauna, and to concentrations of chemical substances. In the report, the PBL also stated that a smart combination of measures would be needed to achieve the targets on time. Water quality has, in other words, improved in large parts of the Netherlands in recent years, but not quickly enough.

Progress is being made but too slowly

So improvements need to be made faster. The PBL message was heard and it led to administrative action in November 2016. During the Delta Approach Conference, representatives of the national government, provincial and municipal authorities, water authorities, water companies, research institutes, NGOs, industry and agriculture signed a declaration of intent, the ‘Delta Approach to Water Quality and Freshwater’ (DAWZ). The Delta Approach consists of a large number of actions that are intended to result in chemically clean and ecologically healthy water for people and nature. The signatories pooled forces to effectively reduce drug residues, pesticides and nutrient levels in our water cycles. Action has also been initiated for other themes such as the protection of drinking water sources, understanding brackish water systems and effective ways of influencing stakeholder behaviour in the water chain.

Sharing knowledge is a prerequisite

An important goal of the Delta Approach is to strengthen the knowledge base. So what knowledge and skills do water quality managers and stakeholders such as farmers and the medical world need to actually achieve the ambitions in the Delta Approach? It is important to bring together existing and proven knowledge in combinations with new knowledge and to provide access to it so that it can be applied in practice. This is, in short, the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse. The aim of this knowledge programme is to make faster progress on the improvement of water quality in 2018 – 2021 so that the Netherlands will achieve the WFD targets in 2027.

Demand-driven water knowledge provides opportunities for faster progress

During the international conference Water Science for Impact organised by Wageningen University and Research Centre on the occasion of their 100th anniversary, Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen praised this knowledge programme: ‘With the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse, we are building a knowledge catalyst.’ A pragmatic Dutch chain approach that helps us to move ahead faster because we work effectively and efficiently. ‘The unique collaboration between users, research institutes, consultancy firms and support from the water sector and the government means we deliver acquired and bundled knowledge that is immediately applicable.’ This puts the Netherlands on the map as an innovative water country.

Role of Deltares and other research institutes

‘Deltares is enthusiastic about our participation in the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse’, explains Hilde Passier. ‘For example, to identify the ecological impact of toxic substances, we are looking at the chain to see which components of the toxic substances can be absorbed by organisms and how we can calculate the effects as accurately as possible. Our colleagues from KWR Water Research, Wageningen University and Research Centre, and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment are working at the same time on other questions relating to the same toxic substances. The results are being combined and we are teaming up with users to find the right, applicable, solutions.’ She and her colleagues from the other institutes are looking forward with great confidence to working together in this way. ‘Working alone, you miss some parts of the puzzle. Together we can come up with solutions and have an effect on improving water quality.’

More information can be found on:

Speech by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen during the Water Science for Impact conference in Wageningen