Radical new sources of drinking water

The drinking water provision in the Netherlands makes use of fresh groundwater and fresh surface water as its principal sources. After the water’s intake or abstraction, it is used to produce drinking water in a centrally organised system of production sites and supply areas. Although, over the course of time, variations have developed in how we’ve worked with these sources – take, for instance, infiltration and recovery, and different forms of river-bank filtration – the core of the system has not changed. However, with the development of the treatment technology, the number of potentially exploitable alternative sources is increasing.

Besides this technological development there is also a societal trend towards greater sustainability, decentralisation and self-provision. With regard to the drinking water sector, the use of alternative sources, decentralisation and self-provision are still at a very early stage, while customer confidence in the centrally-supplied drinking water is high. Investments in the sector are however characterised by their long time horizons. It is therefore important, at this time, to research the potential of these developments and their consequences for the water utilities.

Availability and quality of sources

In this exploratory research a large number of sources will be examined, including their availability (quantity) and quality. We will also assess how other factors (for example, costs, technical possibilities, regulation and perception) might influence the potential use of these sources.

Consequences for the drinking water sector

In the second part of the project, further research will be carried out on which alternative sources can be used under different future scenarios. Possible scenarios are:

  • Water conservation and decentralised provisions
  • Circular economy
  • A system under pressure – for example, from climate change or population growth

This project explores the possibilities and consequences of the centralised or decentralised switch to other drinking water sources. This covers a broad range of conceivable sources, or even currently still inconceivable ones, like hydrogen, effluent reuse, permanent drainages, rainwater, seawater (mobile?), by-product water (from among others air-conditioning, refrigerators, milk-powder/sugar production), brackish water, polder water, mist collectors or air humidity. Various aspects of different decentralised treatment processes, such as costs, and the consequences for the drinking water sector and the environment will also be examined.