Human health needs knowledge about water and the subsurface.

Developing innovations and knowledge together for good-quality clean water

The Netherlands must meet the objectives of the European Water Framework by 2027. More action is needed to achieve that goal. As a result, a declaration of intent – the Delta Approach for Water Quality and Freshwater –was signed by government authorities, NGOs and research institutes on 16 November 2016. Research institutes have agreed to work together on a knowledge programme that will provide national coordination and have international appeal. In the years to come, people will be working on stubborn problems such as fertilisers (nutrients) and pesticides but also on emerging problems such as pharmaceutical traces and microplastics.

In 2016 Deltares was once again involved in a range of studies for improving water quality in the Netherlands. A good example is the WFD NUTrend. This application was built in Deltares software (FEWS) and it will be available as a web application (the Delta Viewer) in early 2017. The application provides a spatial picture of the extent to which the standards for nitrogen and phosphorus are being met in the WFD water bodies. Until now, a good nationwide overview of water quality was lacking. The nitrate app linked to the same Delta Viewer also helps to monitor water quality. The app was developed in 2016 to allow land managers, such as farmers, to measure nitrate concentrations themselves. The Monitoring Network for Nutrients in Agriculture-Specific Surface Water has shown that nutrient concentrations have been falling gradually in recent years. The new manure policy is making an effective contribution. The app is a practical measuring method that encourages people to deal sensibly with manure. We were also involved in developments in collaboration with other research organisations. We teamed up with Wageningen Environmental Research to set up a national instrument for rural water quality that simulates the nutrients in the soil, groundwater and surface water. This instrument links up with the Dutch Hydrological Instrument (NHI) and development is continuing so that it can be used in 2018 for things like the third-generation river basin management plans.

We are also testing innovative solutions in the field such as Puridrain (removing nitrates from drainage water with wood chips) or Purioever (removing phosphates with screens of iron sand). This work also involves collaboration with water managers and farmers, for example in the Dutch bulb-growing area. There is a lot of interest from both the European Union and the rest of the world.


Over the next five years, the knowledge-boost activities will focus not only on technical solutions but specifically on governance. An awareness of the importance of water among the general public and business is essential and it can be raised by making it clear that clean and healthy water is economically and socially valuable.

With this knowledge boost we create a clear knowledge base so that we have fewer discussions about the facts. Working together in this way makes the institutes stronger and allows us to make the most of our combined strengths. This allows us to improve water quality faster.
Egon Ariens
Programme manager for the Freshwater Delta Programme
Helping to improve water quality in collaboration with our fellow research institutes is a fantastic challenge that I am happy to take on. Using knowledge contributes to even better state-of-the-art analyses and innovative solutions.
Hans Aalderink

For this project Deltares has collaborated with the following partners:

  • RIVM
  • Wageningen UR
  • KWR Watercycle Research Institute
  • Deltacommissaris
Health hans

Want to know more about this project?

Hans Aalderink
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