Year Review 2022

  • 93
    Peer-reviewed articles
  • 80
  • 37
    International colleagues
  • 6470

Worldwide challenges and promising achievements

In 2023 we celebrate 40 years of collective research together with our shareholders, the Dutch utilities and the Flemish De Watergroep. In addition to access to cutting-edge research results, drinking water companies benefit from the way KWR scientists collaborate with their utility colleagues to enable them to provide high-quality service to water users despite the increased pressure on water resources, the environment, and R&D budgets. By taking the systems-approach and holistic way of looking at societal challenges, collective research can also lead to discoveries that benefit Dutch and Flemish societies beyond just the drinking water sector.

Looking back at 2022, it was another year of many challenges worldwide, but I can reflect on the many successes we had at KWR that give me hope for the future. Despite the limited pool of highly qualified scientists, we managed to recruit a record number of excellent researchers to work with the Dutch and Flemish water sectors. That convinces me of the high standing of KWR in the scientific community. I am also incredibly proud of the initiative taken by early career researchers. Their passion and dedication to making a difference is truly inspiring. It’s amazing to see how much they have accomplished on the GRROW project in such a short amount of time, and I can’t wait to see what they will achieve in the future. I am also proud of the significant impact our projects had and continue to have not only on the water sector but also on the energy, agriculture/food and health sectors through the joint research programmes – on drinking water and on the water in the circular economy – and EU/international projects. 

Data-driven approach

Increasingly the worldwide water sector is embracing a data-driven approach to managing water because of the increased complexity of securing supplies and various pressures on this precious resource (e.g., climate change and population movements). A growing amount of data is collected by water utilities in the process of managing water sources, treating water, distributing drinking water to customers’ premises, collecting wastewater, and treating it before it is safely released into the environment. This increase in data availability allows more detailed analyses and better management of the water cycle. 

For example, the development of a digital twin of an entire region (as in the EU IMPETUS project) that represents the physical system, can help to better analyse its performance, and adjust water management actions in the region. 

Another example is the use of smart water meter data that can not only provide users with detailed and highly accurate information regarding their daily water usage and consumption, as well as associated costs, but also provide the water utility with the opportunity to gain more insight into customer attitude to water conservation and use behavioural science to manage demand 

KWR & Friends 

The IWA World Water Congress in Copenhagen focused on urban water challenges under the main theme of “water for smart livable cities”. Early careers, or “young water professionals” in IWA speak, were prominent at the congress and in our “KWR & Friends” exhibition stand. Key concerns raised by early careers and other participants were about climate change and planetary boundaries in terms of absorbing capacity of our planet. The holistic management of water was identified as important for mitigating biodiversity losses, improving nutrient cycles (P and N), as well as improving chemical and microbiological water quality. KWR staff travelled sustainably to Copenhagen, either by train or in hydrogen cars.  

Circular economy

Water security challenges cannot be considered in isolation from other important societal challenges, most notably sustainable provision of food and energy for the growing world population. For example,  agriculture consumes most of the world’s freshwater resources and water is used to generate most forms of energy. Future demand for all three is projected to outstrip supply if we do not do something about managing the demand. Using nature as a model is in opposition to our dominant ‘linear’ economic system, where after we make a product and it comes to the end of its useful life, it becomes waste and damages our environment and climate. This natural way or the “circular water way” is part of the Water in the Circular Economy research programme that we run with the water sector and other societal stakeholders as well. 

I look forward to our “40 Year Collective Research” Festival Year! 

Also view our previous Year Reviews: 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015

Water research is done by people

Our knowledge institute operates at a high scientific level thanks to the commitment and expertise of our people. They are the basis for our success. The commitment, involvement and knowledge of KWR experts extends beyond the Netherlands, beyond today – and also beyond the boundaries of their scientific expertise. Many of our researchers share their insights and knowledge with the world via blogs. In this Annual Review 2022, we would like to highlight some of those blogs, as they illustrate how water connects us globally and can give direction to solving global problems. Together with stakeholders, we look for answers to global water challenges, using technology and a central role for people.

Water research is done by people

Facts & figures 2022

Selection of news from 2022