Clean water is vital
Mega-cities complicate water management
By 2050 the global population will have increased to between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people, two thirds of whom will be living in cities. Due to the current effects of climate change, large cities are threatened with serious shortages of clean water. In mega-cities like Dhaka in Bangladesh, the effects are already apparent. In this sprawling city with almost 19 million inhabitants, population pressure and industry are causing such a deterioration of the water quality in rivers that shortages are imminent, particularly of clean drinking water. There is also widespread pollution of the groundwater in Bangladesh with arsenic, a carcinogenic substance that is naturally present. Deltares has acquired experience here and in a range of other countries with the joint formulation of plans for the adaptive management of water quality. In the Netherlands also, we are working with the government and other research institutes on a plan for water quality in our delta.
Governments and companies want information about effects
Providing an increasing population with food, clothing and transport requires higher levels of production. Without changes to current production processes, more water will be used and it will get polluted. As a result, plastics, wastewater and fertilisers enter our water, together with familiar and as yet unknown chemicals. Companies and governments want to know what the effects will be and to communicate them. They need information about how substances spread and possible solutions, preferably circular. We have teamed up with Kimberly Clark to work on a water dashboard (WaterLoupe] ) with the aim of establishing a low-threshold approach to mapping out the water risks associated with production. In the Netherlands, we are collaborating with the Emission Registration which is used to underpin the environmental policy and standards. We participate in research into plastics and microplastics by combining knowledge about measurement technology and biochemistry with models that generate a picture of dissemination through rivers and seas.
Surface water and pathogens are closer
In order to retain water after heavy rain, we are creating more and more room for water in the designs of our cities. Surface water also provides cooling through evaporation. People and animals live ever closer to the water, a fertile habitat for pathogens and infectious agents. In addition, there is a rise in the concentrations of antibiotics used and excreted by humans, and therefore an increase in the spread of antibiotic resistance.
By working together on new measurement techniques , monitoring strategies and water quality models, we give water managers a better picture of water quality and the opportunities for improvement. Increasingly, we are getting local residents involved here. Our experience in Amsterdam has taught us that residents learn more about water quality and its impact on health when they make measurements themselves. In Iowa, USA, volunteers are using our Nitrate App to measure nitrate levels in ditches and to determine the extent to which the individual ditches pollute sources of drinking water. We are working with regional water managers on a water quality forecasting system that issues early warnings on, for instance, harmful algal blooms.