Our society and economy are dependent on natural resources, such as raw materials, water and energy. Today, these resources are under severe pressure all over the world. This is not sustainable over the long-term: demand is exceeding the regenerative capacity of the Earth. To safeguard long-term welfare and liveability, we need another economic model; a model that differs from the current linear system, in which raw materials and water are discarded as waste following single use. The circular economy is a ‘different’ economy. It is an economy that is premised on the reusability of products and raw materials, and on the restorative capacity of natural resources. The transition to a circular economy is expected to involve a big shift in economic processes and in the roles and activities of organisations. The transition can also have a variety of impacts on the water sector and on the position of the water utilities in society.
What is WiCE?
The collective research programme, ‘Water in the Circular Economy’ (WiCE), is an initiative of the Dutch and Flemish drinking water utilities and KWR. In WiCE, the water utilities, together with partners in and associated with the water cycle, conduct joint research aimed at contributing to meeting the societal challenges regarding the circular economy, climate adaptation and the sustainable energy transition. In doing so, they also contribute to realising the 2020 Climate Targets, the Circular Economy in the Netherlands by 2050 Programme, and the energy transition. The research is furthermore harmonised with, and responds to, local and regional loop-closure initiatives.
WiCE provides a platform for the conduct of joint research on ‘water in the circular economy’. To this end, the following research themes have been defined:
- Resource Efficiency: focused on the recovery of raw materials and energy from water streams.
- Water and Energy: focused on the development and implementation of water-related technologies that contribute to the energy transition – for example, the storage and recovery of heat in and from the subsurface.
- Freshwater Resource Management: focused on the (re)use of water for a robust freshwater provision.
- Quality in the Water Cycle: focused on water quality in the entire water cycle.
- Climate Adaptation: mainly focused on climate adaptation in urban and surrounding areas.
- Value in the Water Cycle: focused on the governance aspects of the circular economy, such as the value of water, the scale level and the transition over time.
Within the framework of the WiCE programme, collaborative work is carried out with partners from the entire water cycle in specific projects.
- Impact and opportunities for the urban water cycle of the ‘fully circular in 2050’ target / Resource Efficiency
- System Design Power-to-X / Water and Energy
- Efficient (re)use of water for a robust freshwater supply / Freshwater Resource Management
- WWTP as Water Factory for a robust freshwater supply / Freshwater Resource Management
- New water cycles: method development for opportunities and risks in reuse applications / Quality in the Water Cycle
- Governance and knowledge action for the circular water cycle / Value in the Water Cycle
Besides these WiCE projects, KWR is also involved in other projects and initiatives in the area of water and the circular economy. You will find a complete overview of these activities here.
The Circonomist is an English-language online newspaper on the water, energy and food nexus, as part of the domain of the circular economy. The Circonomist is an initiative of WiCE and presents and comments on news and relevant developments, with regular sections linked to the themes of the WiCE research programme.
Read more at www.circonomist.com.
In collaboration with WiCE project partners, various roadshows are organised every year around a different research theme. The collaboration partners and interested parties from various sectors come together to share knowledge and learn from each other’s experience. Keep an eye on the KWR agenda for upcoming roadshows.