ANCHOR scrutinises urban water reuse

EU project approved by INTERREG programme

Working with Waternet and partners from Flanders, Germany and Sweden, KWR will be starting work on the ANCHOR project, which was approved by the EU INTERREG programme in April. The aim of that programme is to support interregional cooperation throughout Europe. The project will run for three years and study the application of water reuse in the built environment from technical, societal, governance and economic perspectives. ANCHOR’s goal is the development of cities that are resilient, circular, integrated, sustainable and social.

The total budget for the ANCHOR project (Anthropocene Nutrient and water Control for HOlistic resilience and Recovery) amounts to 4.3 million euros. The joint research programme of the water companies, WiCE (Water in the Circular Economy) is providing co-financing to the tune of 595,000 euros.

Governance and socio-economic questions

ANCHOR comprises four work packages that, together, are intended to collect the knowledge needed to get transitions relating to urban water reuse on the move. At the district level, different disciplines and sectors will be combined and manageable agendas will be established. KWR will focus on knowledge questions relating to governance and socio-economic aspects. What are the implications of water-smart districts for end users? How are these districts, their innovations and their benefits organised and funded? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed. In addition, KWR is contributing to the drafting of an energy balance for the urban water reuse metabolism.

Water reuse at the district level

KWR has the resources needed to answer these questions from ANCHOR. “As part of WiCE, we have been working for five years now on governance questions relating to the strategic significance of water reuse developments at the district level,” says KWR researcher Henk-Jan van Alphen. “For example, in the SENSE project, we studied the public’s perceptions and experiences with water-saving technologies such as the vacuum toilet and the recirculating shower. Practical methods have been developed for this purpose. We also have tools that can identify the societal values of transitions of this type.”

Basis for the decisions needed

The other work packages focus on system knowledge relating to water reuse in the urban environment, the urban metabolism – what water goes in, what comes out – and the knowledge needed to scale up and transfer results throughout Europe. The intention is for the project to establish a basis for the decisions needed in the water sector, Van Alphen believes. “Because there is a lot of debate in this area right now. Should you organise water reuse at the district level or should it been centred on large water treatment plants? How can urban water reuse start to function and is it efficient enough? ANCHOR will give us a better picture of how water reuse at the district level will make a meaningful contribution to the challenges ahead: enough water of the right quality.”


The water utilities are very enthusiastic about this project, as is demonstrated by the significant financial support from WiCE. If EU funding had not been obtained, the water utilities wanted to look for other ways to move forward, Van Alphen says. The researcher welcomes this attitude. “Developments around urban water reuse are of interest to water utilities. It can be a way of using less drinking water, which is an urgent issue. But local water reuse also requires a different allocation of roles to actors in the water sector. That’s an exciting venture.”