Sustainable use of freshwater resources

Knowledge, technology and management measures for sufficient and clean freshwater

Access to sufficient and clean freshwater is not a given. Globally, the water sector is confronted with ever-increasing water security challenges and the need to use freshwater sources in a sustainable manner. KWR develops knowledge, technologies and management measures to optimally meet the requirements for sufficient and clean freshwater sources. We are an expertise centre for the water sector. Our goal is to ensure freshwater security for people, agriculture, industry and nature, not only for today but also into the future.

Freshwater sources under pressure

The supply of sufficient and clean freshwater is under pressure worldwide. Groundwater resources are under increasing pressure as a consequence of climate change, and associated variations in precipitation and evaporation patterns, as well as of intensified land use. For example, salinisation by seawater intrusion is threatening the supply of fresh groundwater and surface water in coastal areas. In addition, groundwater quality is threatened by a variety of human activities, both aboveground and in the subsurface. These threats further increase the need for sustainable use of freshwater sources, be it for drinking water production, or agricultural or industrial use.


Video – 01:58
Subsurface Water Solutions

KWR developed practical subsurface water solutions to address the global water security challenges.

Meeting the requirements

The knowledge, techniques and management measures developed by KWR are aimed at optimally meeting the requirements for water security, i.e., sufficient and clean freshwater. To support the sustainable use of freshwater sources KWR, focuses on the following aspects:

Groundwater quantity

  • Establishment of groundwater measurement networks based on management practices and analysis of groundwater levels and time series.
  • Measurement and modelling of evaporation from the soil and plant growth in natural and agricultural plant communities, and implications for groundwater recharge (e.g., rainwater harvesting, historical analysis of water management).
  • Strategies to improve well-functioning, prevention of clogging and (re)development of wells. This is done by developing early well-clogging warning systems, new well types, like multiple partially penetration wells (MPPW), expanded diameter gravel wells (EDGW), microbiological clogging prevention, acoustic well development and well flow alternation schemes. In all these cases it is important to realize that wells function as the gateway to the subsurface, either for abstracting or infiltrating water.

Groundwater quality

  • Monitoring and analysing the behaviour of (ground)water contaminants introduced by agricultural activities, industrial point-source discharges, (in)direct reuse of effluent and urban pollution.
  • Research into the risks of geothermal heat production and aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) on groundwater quality.
  • Improving water quality and stimulating the removal of groundwater pollutants (e.g., arsenic, pharmaceuticals), through engineered managed aquifer recharge (MAR), subsurface water treatment and subsurface iron removal.

Sustainable water systems for nature, landscape and agriculture

  • Process knowledge of interactions between soil, water and plants, and predictive models of vegetation development (e.g., achievement of environmental objectives, identification of future biodiversity hotspots).
  • Development of robust water systems for nature, agriculture and drinking water, using water buffering, water storage, water reuse and an optimal coordination of landscape functions.

Optimal freshwater provision by using the subsurface

  • Methods for the subsurface storage of freshwater in brackish and saline groundwater, for use by greenhouse horticulture, industry, and in urban areas during dry periods and to prevent flooding.
  • Controlling salinisation by brackish or saline groundwater abstraction to create space for fresh water storage (Freshmaker), or prevent brackish/saline water intrusion (Freshkeeper); and to use brackish groundwater in reverse osmosis (RO) as a source for drinking, horticultural and industry water, and deep-well subsurface infiltration of saline RO concentrate.
  • Possibilities for reusing industrial and urban residual water through temporary storage and supplementary treatment in the subsurface. Residual water would thus be available for greenhouse horticulture and farming.

Integrated vision on sustainable use

Schematic view of the Freshkeeper and Freshmaker concepts as part of the subsurface solutions for freshwater security.

With an integrated vision of the freshwater provision, KWR contributes to ensuring the supply of freshwater for people, agriculture, industry and nature. KWR is also an expert partner when it comes to ensuring future freshwater security. Our knowledge and expertise have broad applicability: from quantifying the balance between supply and demand, to optimising sustainable water management by means of planning, technologies and monitoring.



Video – 04:06
Waterware – Menyanthes

Menyanthes. Groundwater levels are influenced by a variety of factors, such as precipitation, evaporation, groundwater abstraction and the water level of streams, canals and rivers. Menyanthes® is the multi-faceted computer program hydrologists can use to quickly and easily unravel these different factors affecting groundwater levels.