Water and sanitation, the Dutch Way

KWR presented on drinking water technology and governance in the Netherlands

In the coming years, Bosnia Herzegovina will make important steps towards EU candidacy. With the help of funds from Europe and World Bank the nation will further redevelop itself after the Balkan war in de 1990s, including water related infrastructure. However, not only the physical water systems, such as drinking water piping and sewage treatment plants, but also water governance is getting attention. KWR was invited to visit a seminar on water organized by the Dutch embassy in Sarajevo. Here, the city was seeing its first snow of the winter, while over 50 people gathered to listen to technical talks combined with companies seeking trade possibilities.

Country in development

As became clear from the presentation from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the country needs significant improvements. Piped drinking water is not available for many parts of the country and even in a big city as Sarajevo, service is interrupted for many moments during the day. Non-revenue water is over 70% and sewage treatment is around 5%. In all, the challenges are great and within a half day travelling by air from our country, imagine that. We are close by to give advice and guidance. The seminar has provided information on what tools and funding is available from RVO (Dutch), World Bank and EU.

Role of science in development

In light of the challenges ahead, the role of institutes as KWR can be of helping making decisions, as though choices are near. Advanced treatment and cutting edge science may sound a bit overdone in the (re)developments. However, as many water systems need total (re)construction, Bosnia Herzegovina has to my opinion the ultimate chance of implementing the latest scientific achievements and technical insights. In the presentation on drinking water systems in the Netherlands, the absence of chlorine was an eye opener to many. The audience was at first surprised but realized that the fundaments were laid more than 50 years ago and not done easily. Another example that I presented was the City Blue Print concept as a way to show opportunities ahead and how to learn from other cities. Next, the concept of self-cleaning networks was getting attention, while the country has to improve many pipes to decrease the level of Non-Revenue Water.

Later, during talks on water management by the Water Authority Rivierenland, for example, people were quite interested in our efficiency and resource recovery concepts. As the water current water governance is scattered among many little municipalities and utilities, it resembles the situation of the Netherlands some decades ago. Questions from that arise on whether centralized water systems or decentralized (local) options would be best. This last topic may be an example in which knowledge institutes as KWR can feed discussions with scientific info and practical experiences, “the Dutch way”.

In all, it was interesting to see this city and the challenges ahead, in a nation not that far from us. I believe that the hard choices should be based on the latest scientific and governance best practices, also in light of many stakeholders in a complex political situation. Hopefully, Dutch experts made an impression that will inspire others.