Water reuse and freshwater provision: connecting sectors

‘Efficient with Fresh’ Roadshow

Having sufficient freshwater, for all users and uses. Always. In the Netherlands and Flanders this is becoming more and more of a challenge. In response, regional and local efforts are under way to achieve self-sufficiency and maximise efficiency in the exploitation of freshwater sources. The use of residual water is generally considered an important part of the solution. After all, every drop that is reused, means that one drop less needs to be drawn from groundwater.

More than 70 representatives from the drinking water, wastewater, government, agricultural and industry sectors gathered on 10 October for the ‘Efficient with Fresh’ Roadshow, an initiative of Brabant Water, Water Authority Brabantse Delta, Stowa and KWR’s Water in the Circular Economy (WiCE) research programme. The aim of the roadshow concept is to promote mutual inspiration and to share knowledge and experiences – on this occasion, about measures to balance freshwater demand and supply. How can we match periods of surplus water with those with water shortages? How can water be responsibly reused in the freshwater provision? How can we move towards regional self-sufficiency? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of a cross-sectoral approach?

North-Brabant is one of the regions feeling increased pressure on its water supply. All the stakeholders feel the need to be economical with water, conserve water and actively replenish groundwater. The further linking of the water cycle and the water system can also make an important contribution; treated residual water that is today quickly discharged from areas is also a significant source of water. But the reuse of residual water has of course to be done in a responsible manner: both the opportunities and risks need to be weighed.

There are many opportunities for the reuse of water between sectors, as illustrated in several practical examples. In the Flemish Ardooie, vegetable processor Ardo supplies more than 150,000 m3 of treated residual water annually to surrounding farmers. Similarly, every year Suiker Unie in Dinteloord supplies 300,000 m3 of residual water to horticulturalists in the neighbouring Nieuw Prinsenland glasshouse area, where they process it into irrigation water. If residual water from the food industry is a relatively ‘safe’ source, it would be even more exciting if we could reuse water from a regional water treatment plant, given for instance the various micropollutants the residual water contains. Research is being conducted together with universities, within WiCE ‘Efficient with Fresh’, into the opportunities and risks of the use of this residual water ( But developments are moving ahead quickly and, thanks to the extensive treatment of domestic wastewater, the Water Authorities may soon be supplying ‘customised water quality’ – the WWTP as Water Factory.

‘Connecting sectors’: that summarises the roadshow well, according to organisers Ruud Bartholomeus and Klaasjan Raat. ‘Instead of everyone looking separately for a solution to the same freshwater availability problem, we bring the sectors together to do so in collaboration. Only by working together can we achieve a responsible exploitation, replenishment and reuse of our freshwater.’