WiCE Bijeenkomst Routes naar een circulaire economie: end-of-pipe volstaat niet

Event details

The joint research programme Water in the Circular Economy (WiCE) emerged from collective research by the water companies and partners in and around the water chain. The aim is to contribute to the challenges facing society in the context of the circular economy, climate adaptation and the transition to a sustainable energy supply. The ‘Circular Water 2050’ project looking at routes to a circular water chain was completed recently. In this WiCE project, a (visual) dot on the horizon was developed for a circular water chain in 2050 for a standard municipality. Backcasting was then used to identify the measures needed to make the transition.

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One of the conclusions of this ‘Circular Water 2050’ project is that there is a legacy period in which the temporary expansion of treatment for drinking water and sewage is unavoidable in order to implement the core responsibilities. However, in a Circular Economy, the costs of additional treatment phases and the protection of water quality protection cannot be passed on to the drinking water consumer and taxpayer. This would conflict with the EU environmental principle of ‘the polluter pays’ and the responsibility of producers as outlined in the European Green Deal 2050. Furthermore, over time, the additional treatment phases must also eliminated. End-of-pipe solutions are not compatible with a circular economy or with climate goals because additional treatment generates an enormous climate footprint. How can we work on behalf of society to ensure that the polluter pays for the additional treatment phases? Participants will develop possible answers to this question during this meeting with input from six leading speakers, after which there will be a working session to apply the backcasting method.

Backcasting method

In an exercise with backcasting, the participants at this WiCE meeting will explore possible routes towards a single defined dot on the horizon: by 2050 at the latest, the polluter will pay for the temporary expansion of treatment for drinking water and sewage. How can we transform this vision into a reality? What are the intermediate steps? These questions will be discussed with a broad range of experts in water quality, source protection, lawyers, strategists and policy advisers. During the discussions, participants will explore how to make this big step towards a circular economy and what we need to do now to make it feasible.


  • Marleen van Rijswick (keynote), Professor of European and Dutch Water Law, Director of the Utrecht University Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law
  • Aalke Lida de Jong, AquaMinerals, Environmental and Sustainability Manager
  • Kees Roest, KWR, Energy & Circular Systems Researcher, Programme Coordinator for TKI Water Technology
  • Bas Nanninga, Union of Water Authorities, Policy Advisor on the Circular Economy
  • Koen Zuurbier, PWN, Strategic Drinking Water Adviser
  • Andrew Segrave, KWR, Foresight & Strategy Development Researcher
  • Joep van den Broeke (Host), KWR, WiCE Researcher & Programme Manager

Target group & location

Experts in source protection, WFD, water quality, lawyers, strategists, policy advisers at water companies, water authorities, Vewin and the Union of Water Authorities. The De Hoep PWN Visitor Centre is easily accessible by public transport: ten minutes with a public transport bicycle from Castricum intercity station.

Project partners


Time Content Speakers
10.45–11.00 Arrival with coffee Plenary
11.00–11.15 Opening and presentation of WiCE, WiCE programme for 2024-2029 Joep van den Broeke

Presentation of WiCE ‘Circular Water 2050’ project


Kees Roest


11.30–11.45 Energy and material flows in the water chain: where are the circular opportunities? Aalke Lida de Jong


11.45–12.00 Backcasting: from dot on the horizon to roadmap Andrew Segrave




The water chain in a Circular Economy. Amendment of urban waste water Directive. Expansion of sewage treatment phases with the 4th stage and water as a basic material. Bas Nanninga

Policy adviser on the Circular Economy, University of Wageningen

12.30–13.00 Lunch
13.00–13.15 PWN case study Koen Zuurbier


13.15–14.00 How law can contribute to the fair and sustainable management of the water quality and the equitable distribution of the associated costs. Extending producer responsibility and the environmental principle that the polluter pays.

Includes fifteen minutes of plenary questions/discussion.

Professor Marleen van Rijswick

Utrecht University Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law

13.45–14.00 Coffee break
14.00–15.00 Working session including presentation: exercise with backcasting. Assumption: legacy period makes additional treatment phases inevitable. Dot on the horizon: by 2030, the polluter will pay for additional treatment efforts. How do we make this vision a reality? What are the intermediate steps? In sub-groups, process supervision from Henk-Jan van Alphen


15.00–15.30 Plenary discussion, including collective conclusions

Reflection by Professor Marleen van Rijswick

Joep van den Broeke


15.30–15.45 Close Joep van den Broeke


16.00–17.00 Optional tour of PWN location
17.00 Drinks Plenary