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Water Quality Knowledge Impulse: room for acceleration

The participants in the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse are the national government, provinces, Water Authorities, water utilities, knowledge institutes and stakeholders interested in accelerating the improvement of water quality in and around the Netherlands. The ultimate objective is to have chemical and ecological water quality in shape in 2027. ‘With the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse, we’re building a knowledge catalyst,’ said minister Cora Nieuwenhuizen in her address to the ‘Water Science for Impact’ congress on 18 October.

Our water quality is vitally important

In early 2016, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, in its report (in Dutch) ‘Water quality now and in the future’estimated that the improvement measures planned for 2016-2021 would very probably not achieve the desired water-quality indicators in 2017. This is the last deadline set for EU member states to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This applies both to the composition of water flora and fauna, and to the concentrations of chemical substances. The PBL report also indicates that the objectives could still be met if a smart set of measures is taken. Thus, water quality in the Netherlands has indeed improved over the last few years, but things are moving too slowly.

It’s going well but not fast enough

Acceleration is therefore needed. The PBL message was heard and, in November 2016, there was an official response. Representatives of the national government, provinces, municipalities, Water Authorities, water utilities, knowledge institutes, community organisations, industry and agriculture signed the declaration of intent regarding the Delta-approach Water Quality and Fresh Water (DAWZ). The Delta-approach involves a large number of actions aimed at achieving chemically clean and ecological healthy water for humans and nature. The signatories began working together on effectively curbing pharmaceutical residues, plant protection products and the amount of nutrients in our water loops. Moreover, actions have also been taken that affect other areas, such as the protection of drinking water sources, insight into brackish water systems and effective methods to influence the behaviour of stakeholders in the watercycle.

Knowledge sharing is an advantage

A key objective of the Delta-approach is to reinforce the knowledge base. So, what knowledge and skills do water managers and stakeholders, such as the agricultural and medical sectors, require to actually realise the ambitions of the Delta-approach? It is important to bundle and unlock existing, proven knowledge together with newly-acquired knowledge, so that they can be applied in practice. This, in short, is what the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse (KIW) is about. This knowledge programme aims, over 2018-2021, to bring about the acceleration required in the improvement of water quality so that the Netherlands can meet the WFD objectives in 2027.

Market-driven water knowledge offers room for acceleration

During the international Water Science for Impact congress, organised by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary, minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen praised this knowledge programme: ‘With the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse, we’re building a knowledge catalyst. A pragmatic Dutch chain-approach, which helps us accelerate because we can get down to work effectively and efficiently. Through this unique partnership between users, knowledge institutes, consultancies and the support from the water sector and government, we can make the acquired and bundled knowledge immediately implementable in practice. This puts the Netherlands on the map as an innovative water nation.’

Photo: Guy Ackermans

Role of KWR and other knowledge institutes

KWR plays a substantial role in the KIW, collaborating in projects in fields including toxicity, nutrients and valorisation. ‘We think the knowledge sharing with other stakeholders is extremely valuable,’ says KWR researcher Laurens Hessels, project leader of the KIW Knowledge Valorisation subproject. ‘The KIW offers the opportunity to share data, models and tools with other knowledge organisations and to learn from each other. Moreover, the Water Authorities, water utilities and provinces will also be sharing experiences and practical knowledge. In the Knowledge Valorisation project we study effective ways of working and methods for the integration and use of knowledge. We then translate our results into an approach for the KIW, so that it can truly contribute to the improvement of water quality.’