Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water

KWR and Utrecht University (IRAS) sign memorandum of understanding

KWR and Utrecht University’s Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) signed a memorandum of understanding on 30 June with the aim of remedying gaps in our knowledge about risk assessment for substances in water. With the Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water, KWR and IRAS are pooling their forces to answer questions from science, education and practice.

KWR and IRAS have a shared objective: using existing and innovative methods that help to improve our understanding of exposure to substances in water and the potential effects. Many different pollutants are found in water worldwide, while the scarcity of water resources is increasing due to urbanisation, the increasing use of chemicals and climate change. With new pollutants, it is not always clear whether they may pose a threat to human and environmental health. That constitutes a problem for policy, society and industry when it comes to taking informed decisions about the assessment of water pollution. The Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water will draw on exposure studies, epidemiology and toxicology to address that problem.

Translating scientific knowledge

‘Bridging Science to Practice’ – which is also KWR’s pay-off – plays a central role in the Academic Collaborative Centre, says Milou Dingemans, a researcher with KWR. “The strength of this alliance is that it translates scientific knowledge into relevance for day-to-day practice in the water (and drinking water) sector. It confirms our existing joint work on toxicology and innovative methods, such as in vitro testing for specific organ systems. And it provides us with access to expertise in exposure studies and epidemiology.”

Ondertekening IRAS dragan
Roel Vermeulen (scientific director of IRAS) signs the contract.
Ondertekening IRAS dragan.1jpg
Dragan Savic (CEO KWR) signs the contract.
Ondertekening IRAS dragan
Ondertekening IRAS dragan.1jpg

Academic Collaborative Centre

The Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water provides a platform for scientific research and innovation in the domain of water quality and health. This includes the fields of toxicology & risk assessment, exposure assessment and wastewater-based epidemiology. For example, guide values based on existing knowledge from animal testing are commonly used in the water sector for drinking water sources in relation to human health. Tests of this kind are ethically objectionable, expensive and time-consuming, and they do not always provide the most relevant toxicological knowledge. Alternatives such as computer modelling or the use of epidemiological information are therefore increasingly being used. To derive risk thresholds and guide values for water quality, an evidence-based and structural approach is needed to the implementation of those these alternatives. The risks associated with substances depend not only on their potential effects but also on actual exposure (including exposure to combinations of substances). This area must therefore also be mapped out better for drinking water on the basis of existing and innovative methods at both the macro and micro levels. In other words, from concentrations in water sources to concentrations in the human body.

Societal and commercial applications

The new initiative provides an inspiring domain for the practical testing of relevant theories, models and tools that contribute to determining the toxicology and exposure of substances (including emerging substances) in drinking water (and drinking water sources). The outcomes will be shared with each other and the relevant results will be set out in papers. Concrete projects will emerge from this work, taking into account the priorities dictated by practice, the business sector or the labour market. The goal of the Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water is to transform knowledge and expertise into societal and commercial applications for the water sector.

Research questions

In the Academic Collaborative Centre for Healthy and Safe Water, we will also provide IRAS students with the facilities to learn about an interesting part of their future labour market. It will also be possible to respond more easily to developments and questions from drinking water companies relating to policy and the market. In addition, via IRAS and the drinking water companies, relevant fundamental and applied knowledge questions can be more formulated more clearly. IRAS and KWR will both appoint a coordinator for the joint structuring of the Academic Collaborative Centre. The coordinators will be the contact people for the ongoing strengthening of this alliance.