- Sustainable Water Cycle
- Climate change and the water sector
The water sector needs practice-oriented research to help it confront the wide-ranging consequences of climate change. KWR meets this need through knowledge development and practical tools that help assess the effects of adaptive measures. This strengthens the water sector’s resilience and helps it make use of climate change opportunities.
Need for practice-oriented research
Over the last century, the average temperature in the Netherlands increased by about 1.5 ⁰C. Average precipitation levels rose by more than 20%, with notably higher levels in the winter. Extreme weather events have also increased, in the form of heavier precipitation (more peak downpours) as well as more frequent heat waves and periods of extreme drought. These developments will in all likelihood continue into the future, with considerable consequences for the water sector. There are concerns about the availability of drinking water sources, especially during dry summers and when river discharges are low. The stability of the drinking water distribution network and of the microbial water quality are under strain. It is debatable whether environmental objectives, which are frequently laid down in law, can be achieved. Or whether, with a changing climate, our water management is optimally organised to meet the needs of agriculture, cities, nature and our drinking water provision. Moreover, the water sector is also expected to do its part in the drive to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. All these questions call for practice-oriented research.
Water research, knowledge development and practical tools
KWR researches the consequences of climate change that affect the water sector. Practical tools help assess the effects of adaptive measures.
Future availability of freshwater – groundwater and surface water – both in terms of quantity and quality. One example is the impact of climate change on the water quality of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, inasmuch as it affects the water provision.
Addressing water scarcity by reducing evaporation through nature management, reusing treated wastewater and making sustainable local use of fresh groundwater in salinated coastal areas (Freshkeeper, Freshmaker).
- Water temperature
Possible risks of the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in drinking water resulting from the higher temperature of water in distribution systems.
- Water distribution networks
Knowledge development about possible impacts of climate change on the functioning of water distribution networks, such as more frequent pipe fractures and greater pipe pressure caused by higher temperatures.
- Urban environment
Strengthening the resilience of cities, both in terms of processing peak downpours and limiting heat stress.
- Nature and agriculture
Development of ecohydrological knowledge and its translation into practical tools (e.g., simulation models, system analysis) to: predict the impact of climate change on nature values and agricultural crop yields; locate new biodiversity hotspots; and assess the effectiveness of adaptive measures.
Appropriate responses to climate change
Without a clear vision of the appropriate responses to climate change, the water sector cannot take any initiatives. KWR conducts practice-oriented research into the effectiveness of adaptive measures. This strengthens the water sector’s resilience and helps it make use of climate change opportunities.