The Blue Route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

KWR co-initiator in bundling Dutch water knowledge development

‘The Blue Route’ was launched today during a special event on board the SS Rotterdam. Based on water-related questions raised by the Dutch population in the Dutch National Research Agenda, KWR, in collaboration with other initiators – I&M, MARIN, NIOZ, Deltares, TNO and Utrecht University – has bundled the biggest water challenges in this route.

The Blue Route

The Blue Route focuses on better Understanding, Protecting and Utilising water. Its power lies in the combination of these three concepts, which bind together all water questions in the National Research Agenda and thereby increase sustainability, wellbeing and prosperity worldwide. ‘Living with water’ stands front and centre. It requires that we protect the water and protect ourselves against it. Our activities cannot damage, but must improve the quality of our living environment.

Water as a threat and water as an opportunity

More than half of the world’s population live in deltas, or along coasts or rivers. These deltas have enormous potential, but at the same time are extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels, pollution and the influence of natural forces and the weather. At the same time, water offers new opportunities, as a source of energy, raw materials, food and transport. The Netherlands grew into a nation at the water’s edge. We can now continue to grow on, along and in the water. We simply cannot allow ourselves to remain idle. By understanding the water system, we can optimally protect it, and we can combine economics and ecology.

Living lab

The route is elaborated in four future prospects:

  1. Living in the Delta’: how do we develop a Sustainable Urban Delta in which large population groups can live, work and eat together safely, healthily and sustainably?
  2. Water as a source’: how can we make sustainable and economically responsible use of the water and energy, natural resources and food located on, in and under the water?
  3. Water as a blue pathway’: how can we redesign vessels with carbon-neutral and autonomous navigation systems, and future-proof our ports and waterways to make shipping sustainable and safe?
  4. Living on water’: what opportunities do floating homes and businesses, aquaculture, and hydropower offer at a time when the sea level is rising, the climate is changing and we are running out of space?

These four future prospects are conducive to the ‘living lab’ approach, in which scientists, enterprises, authori­ties, students and the public work together and even live together in a new reality. A living lab combines scientific, social and technological innovation into a single programme; it generates new products but also influences the behaviour of end-users because they are directly involved and have new options.

The Blue Route connects the concepts of the total water system to water utilisation and protection.