Energy transition and Drinking Water phase 2

The energy transition will impact the operational management of drinking water utilities in multiple ways. In the second phase of the research project on the energy transition and drinking water, KWR is developing a ‘toolkit’ to enable the water utilities to participate in a ‘drinking-water-proof’ energy transition. In addition, three sub-studies will be conducted on the subjects of ‘source protection’, ‘distribution’ and ‘customer’.

Phase 1 (completed): Orientation and phase 2 project plan

During phase 1 of the research (until May 2021), two workshops were organised by KWR on the energy transition and drinking water. In the first workshop KWR presented the outcomes of its research projects and the recommendations resulting from the Policy-Support Research into the energy transition (in Dutch). In addition, knowledge gaps were identified and prioritised. In the second workshop, the water utilities had the floor and shared information with each other about their approach to the energy transition; the associated presentations have all been made available on BTO Net. Based on these workshops, in April 2021, the project team elaborated the project plan for the second phase this project. As of mid-2022, the project team consists of the following people:

  • Marieke Kruitwagen (PWN, chair)
  • Dennis Gardien (Dunea)
  • Maarten Lut (Oasen)
  • Joost Louter (Waternet)
  • Wim Lafeber (WML)
  • Tjitske Brand (Waterbedrijf Groningen)
  • Andreas Moerman (KWR, project manager)

Phase 2: Toolkit for a drinking-water-proof energy transition

For the drinking water utilities, it is important that the societal value of drinking water within the context of the energy transition be brought to the attention of municipalities with sufficient anticipation. For the drinking water sector there is a need in this phase for (1) an overview of the process and extent of the transition until 2030; and (2) tools and insights to make clear, in an accessible way, the importance of drinking water, and the possible associated opportunities, to the directors and other parties, such as grid operators and heating network managers.

Therefore, the objectives of phase 2 of this theme-overarching project within the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the water utilities are:

  1. to outline the timing, extent and impact of the transition (short term);
  2. to develop knowledge to assist the drinking water utilities to resolve or monitor problem areas (longer term).

As part of the short-term objective, three products are being developed which, together, constitute a toolkit for the participation of the drinking water utilities in the energy transition (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The toolkit with the three outcomes: 1.1 through to 1.3.

Part 1.1 of the toolkit is now available on BTO Net and has been shared with all the participants of the workshop held on 16 November 2021.

Part 1.2 consists of an interactive online viewer (see example below). The viewer contains three theme maps:

  1. A map that presents a picture of the energy transition for the whole of the Netherlands (Figure 2).
  2. A map indicating the impact of the installation of heating networks on the costs of shifting drinking water pipes.
  3. A map with an overview of all subsurface functions, including the locations of water systems, groundwater protection areas, etc.

The viewer is accessible with a KWR login. Drinking water utility staff can contact KWR for an account.

Figure 2: Example of one of the online viewer’s theme maps.

Part 1.3 consists of a technical overview to support communication with the municipalities about the importance of drinking water. This is valuable, because the municipalities play a special role in the heating transition, since the national government has assigned them responsibility for the realisation of the process. While the assignment is the same for all municipalities, the capacity and knowledge level vary significantly from one municipality to another. This is the case, even though the spatial integration challenge presented by the transition is enormous, and the heating transition is not the only element of the spatial challenge facing the Netherlands. This overview is expected to be available at the beginning of 2022.

Sub-studies per discipline

The toolkit mentioned above is intended primarily as a means of providing an overview. To follow it up, a decision was made to conduct three sub-studies per discipline (source protection, distribution, customer).

These sub-studies are described briefly below.

  1. Source protection. With this sub-study we want to contribute to the recalibration of groundwater protection policy.
    Outcome: Prototype of an ‘integrated risk-assessment groundwater quality’ work method.
  2. Distribution. With this sub-study we aim to acquire a better understanding of the meaning of the statutory temperature measurements at the tap. We also aim to achieve more uniformity and quality in field measurements.
    Outcome: Report with description of how RDT temperature measurements can be better interpreted, given the sampling location; and an initial impetus for a measurement protocol on ‘measuring drinking water temperature in the field’.
  3. Customer. With this sub-study we aim to provide a picture of the knowledge level and perception/experience of customers regarding the heating up of drinking water/hot tap-water safety behind the meter. The project will contribute to an effective customer approach in order to maintain the quality of drinking water/hot tap-water, without diminishing the customer’s willingness to realise the energy transition.
    Outcome: Report describing the results of the research a building blocks for a tailored customer approach.

The results of these sub-studies are expected in Q1 of 2023.