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Water Systems Research Group

Sustainable use and management of groundwater, surface water, and nature KWR’s Water Systems Research Group offers ­organisations within and outside of the water sector knowledge and top-quality advice about the sustainable management of groundwater, surface water and nature. To this end, the research group possesses expertise in a wide variety of fields, including geohydrology, ecohydrology, ecology, environmental chemistry, water policy development and knowledge management. Drinking water companies, waterboards, provinces, ministries, and nature management organisations draw on the knowledge base that KWR has built up, and on the new ­knowledge developed by the institute, to optimise their management and use of groundwater, surface water, and nature reserves.

Research The more than 40 staff members in the Water Systems Research Group conduct their applied scientific research with the objective of being able to explain and predict the processes that occur in the soil, in groundwater and surface water systems. The technical-scientific research is carried out by three teams: Geohydrology, Ecology, and Integrated Water Management. Contact: Michiel Hootsmans, Head, Water Systems Research Group


KWR Watercycle Research ­Institute The 170 employees of KWR Watercycle Research Institute are experts in a wide variety of aspects of the water cycle and the global water system. The experts are organised in teams within three research groups: Water Systems, Water Technology, and Water Quality & Health. Together, they create integrated solutions whenever possible – solutions that transcend their individual fields of expertise. KWR is committed to an optimal harmonisation between the different water use activities and the surrounding water systems, and between the stakeholder organisations themselves. Only in this way can one create optimal, effective and efficient social innovations that contribute to a sustainable water cycle.

The end-user is the client The Water Systems Research Group undertakes assignments for a variety of end-users, like drinking water companies, waterboards, nature and land managers like ­Staatsbosbeheer (forestry commission), Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA), provinces, and the ministries of Housing, Spatial Planning and the ­Environment, and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Water Systems Research Group

KWR’s Water Systems Research Group takes on challenges The water cycle all over the world presents humans with huge challenges. Pollution is threatening the health of people and the environment, the availability of sufficient supply is tightening, and growing urbanisation and climate change are confronting water ­management and water provision with new demands. KWR’s Water Systems Research Group contributes to the development of the ­knowledge and the means to meet these challenges effectively.

Integrated Water Management Team

Bathing in surface water however may present health risks, in case pathogens and toxic organisms are present, such as

The Integrated Water Management Team focuses on the integration of water quantity and quality, of groundwater and surface water, and of policy and research. For this, the team’s members possess wide-ranging knowledge and skills in the areas of chemical quality of groundwater and surface water, bathing water quality, aquatic ecology, the impact of aquifer thermal energy storage, and geographic infor­mation systems (GIS). The staff carry out research into quality developments in groundwater and surface water, and the effects of climate change on water systems and their possible uses by humans. Here are a few examples of the ­Integrated Water ManagementTeam’s projects:

bluegreen algae. The Integrated Water Management Team exposes the nature of these risks and formulates targeted measures to make and keep bathing and recreational water safe. The team carries out assignments for various water managers, and maintains an intensive scientific and water management network in order to remain up to date on the latest developments. Aquifer thermal energy storage and groundwater quality Aquifer thermal energy storage is a popular source of sustainable energy for built environments. KWR researches the effect of aquifer thermal energy storage on the quality of the ground­ water. The Integrated Water Management Team advises ministries, the Infrastructure for Quality Assurance of Soil

Climate change threatens water quality and drinking water

Foundation (SIKB), provinces and water companies regarding

The Integrated Water Management Team has for a number

the sustainable application of aquifer thermal energy storage

of years researched the effects of climate change on the

and the related developments in policy.

water quality of the large rivers in the Netherlands and of the Lake IJssel. During dry and hot summers, such as those of 2003

Geo-information applications in water management

and 2006, the water quality decreased significantly because

Water management revolves around spatial processes.

of low discharges and algae grew more prolifically. This has a

The Water Systems Research Group employs geographic

strong impact on life forms in the water and on the production

information systems (GIS) and geo-information in order

of drinking water. Rise in sea levels and low river discharges

to research spatial processes and to make them apparent.

lead to increased salinisation in the Rhine and Meuse deltas.

In this way one acquires, for example, a clear picture of the

In the context of the Dutch Knowledge for Climate research

interaction between nature and the surroundings in the

programme, the Integrated Water Management Team

extraction of groundwater.

collaborates with researchers within and outside of KWR analysing, and seeking solutions for climate change issues. Bathing water quality Climate change will increase the need for bathing and recreational water in the vicinity of residential areas.

Contact: Gertjan Zwolsman Team Leader, Integrated Water Management


Geohydrology Team

to the formation of iron deposition. The team is also involved in optimising the regeneration of wells to increase the life-span


The Geohydrology Team deploys knowledge about the underground and groundwater in order to provide direction to the increasing use of the underground for a wide variety of functions. The staff members are specialists in the areas of geohydrology and groundwater level dynamics, geohydrochemistry and groundwater quality, time-­series analysis and risk analysis of human interventions on water quality. Here are a few examples of the ­Geohydrology Team’s projects:

and water yield. Groundwater level analysis assists tackling water policy issues More information can be derived from current data about the groundwater system than generally occurs in practice. The Geohydrology Team makes use of these data in order to gain a precise picture of the developments in groundwater levels within specific areas. To this end, team members conduct areal time series using the KWR-developed programme Menyanthes. Using this software package, it becomes clear, for instance,

Greater possibilities with Horizontal Directional Drilled Wells

how rainfall excess, groundwater extraction, surface-water and

Horizontal Directional Drilled Wells (HDDWs) can offer great

polder levels, together with human interventions can result in

advantages in drinking water collection, aquifer thermal energy

too wet or too dry soil conditions. This can then provide the

storage, soil remediation, (dike) stabilisation, rain-water

foundation for remedial measures.

infiltration and groundwater management. The realisation of an HDDW involves introducing a filter pipe into an aquifer

Analysing and forecasting soil and groundwater quality

through horizontal drilling. The Geohydrology Team is closely

KWR develops models for the analysis and forecast of soil and

involved in the application of HDDW for the provision of drinking

groundwater quality. The Geohydrology Team uses these for risk

water, and is active in a consortium that is studying possible

analyses concerning the quality of groundwater that is intended

HDDW uses. See also

for drinking water use. They are also employed for quantitative research into factors and processes that determine what

Improved management of drinking water wells

quantities of substances dilute in groundwater, for predictions

KWR has a lengthy record of service in the technological

of the build-up of shallow soil moisture or groundwater, and for

development of better drinking water wells and well systems,

estimations of decalcification and acidification of calcareous

from design to realisation, to operation and environmental

dune sand.

impact. Properly designed well management ensures the optimal use of wells and sustainable water collection. The Geohydrology Team designs well linkage systems, which can prevent mechanical well clogging caused by particles. It furtherly works on preventing chemical clogging, which occurs due

Contact: Jan Willem Kooiman Team Leader, Geohydrology

Ecology Team

Ecological Network (EHS), an interconnected network of important existing, and still-to-be-developed, nature reserves

The Ecology Team applies ecohydrological knowledge to improve water and nature management: from ­operational processes to social and administrative processes. The team’s work for the water sector, national and regional governments, and nature protection organisations frequently focuses on the relation between the quality of the natural environment and habitat conditions, that is, the relevant physical and chemical circumstances at habitat sites. Knowledge about this provides an important basis for sustainable water management. The team’s staff members are specialists in ecohydrology, soil science, chemistry, vegetation science, and plant ­physiology. They apply their skills to the development of ­knowledge and practical instruments, for example, in the following projects:

in the Netherlands, and the so-called Natura 2000 areas, a Europe-wide network of protected nature reserves. The members also study the restoration of peat formation in a variety of types of locations in the Netherlands. Climate-proof knowledge about the relations between habitat and vegetation In its applied research into sustainable water, the Ecology Team concentrates on the further development of knowledge about the relationship between vegetation and habitat conditions, and the requirements that the types of vegetation have regarding their habitat. The staff investigate the processes that determine the habitat conditions and the vegetation composition, as well as the influence of the vegetation on the water cycle and on the processes in the water system. The team members convert this knowledge of processes into computer

Ecohydrological system analyses

models, which can, accurately and robustly, incorporate the

Using ecological landscape system analysis, the Ecology Team

impact of climate change on vegetation and vice versa.

researches the key processes that, at the level of the landscape, determine how large the biodiversity is, and what habitat

Integrating knowledge in models, knowledge systems, and

conditions exist for plant species and plant communities.

operational instruments

The team members convert this knowledge into operational

The Ecology Team integrates its knowledge about processes

instruments, which allow the effects of water management,

in the soil-plant systems, and about interactions between

climate change, and management measures to be expressed

vegetation, soil and water, into models and knowledge systems.

in terms of changes in the vegetation.

In this way, its members develop operational instruments which are widely used in water and nature management. A great deal

Determining the effectiveness of ecosystem restoration

of attention is paid to uncertainties and to the way in which


error propagation affects modelling results.

The Ecology Team makes use of empirical research and simulation models to determine the degree to which groundwater-dependent ecosystems can be restored, and how effective the applied restoration techniques are. The team members, among other things, study the National

Contact: Gé van den Eertwegh Team Leader, Ecology


Healthy water focuses on the relationship between human

Sustainable water concentrates on the sustainable management

health and the water quality in (drinking) water sources, in

of water systems and nature, paying particular attention to the

treatment processes, in the distribution network, at the

different functions and to the development of production,

customer’s tap, or in natural bathing water.

distribution and treatment methods that use raw materials and energy efficiently.


Healthy, Sustainable, Advanced, and Efficient water Four core themes govern KWR’s research: Healthy, Sustainable, Advanced, and Efficient water. KWR’s Water Systems Research Group plays an important role within the Sustainable water theme through its research into the possible consequences of climate change, increasing energy use and urbanisation. The group wants to contribute in this way to nature restoration and management, sustainable water resources and a climate-proof water sector. Within the Healthy water theme, the group is active in research into bathing water quality and the quality of the surface water as a source for drinking water. As far as the Advanced water theme is concerned, it explores trends and geo-information applications; and within the Efficient water theme, it researches aquifer thermal energy storage and knowledge productivity.

Knowledge networks KWR’s Water Systems Research Group collaborates ­intensively with Dutch research institutes like Deltares, Alterra and TNO, and with universities such as the VU Amsterdam, Wageningen University and Delft University of Technology, through ­part-time professorships, among other ways. In addition, the group works with land managers, such as Staatsbosbeheer (national forestry commission) and Natuurmonumenten (nature conservation authority). In this way KWR also acquires practical knowledge. A number of PhD students also work in this research group. In this way KWR establishes a bridge between science and water and nature managers. Whenever possible, the research is embedded in, and co-financed by, national knowledge development programmes – such as Knowledge for Climate and the Water Technology Innovation Programme – as well as EU knowledge programmes.

Advanced water focuses on promising technological

Efficient water is concerned with the efficient design of

developments, with a view to making them usable for the

the water cycle, water and energy, and the effectiveness

water sector.

of knowledge productivity.


Working together in the water cycle

Optimal use of knowledge

KWR is dedicated to strengthen the harmonisation and collaboration between the different organisations in the water cycle. The intensive joint use of the water cycle and of the environment we live in often raises conflicting demands among the organisations involved. When ­necessary, staff of the Water Systems Research Group assist in bridge building, always on the basis of their concrete knowledge and recognising everyone’s ­legitimate concerns and interests. Apart from their own knowledge, they also contribute that of other KWR research groups – all with a view to arriving at integrated solutions for technical, social, and administrative issues.

The Knowledge & Programme Management Team provides programme management for a variety of collective research programmes within KWR, and offers the watersector knowledge management advice, ranging from the formulation of visions and research questions, to the optimisation of knowledge development and ­application, and the anchoring of the acquired ­knowledge. The team also examines relevant social ­developments and their consequences for the water sector, conducts horizon scanning, and develops expertise on knowledge implementation and science system ­assessment. These activities contribute to the optimal employment of knowledge, people and resources in and around the water sector. Contact Jos Frijns Team Leader, Knowledge and Programme Management:

Innovation in the water cycle Water is essential for all life on earth. Too much water, or too little water of suitable quality, can have a drastic impact on people and the environment they live in. Top-quality, tailored knowledge is needed to optimally design and manage the water cycle, and thus to provide two of people’s basic needs: healthy and safe drinking water, and a pollution-free environment. KWR Watercycle Research Institute assists society in reaching these goals by integrating targeted research with available knowledge. KWR brings public and business organisations together so as to jointly elaborate effective, practically applicable solutions to water questions, with a focus on Healthy, Sustainable, Advanced, and Efficient Water for everybody. KWR Watercycle Research Institute • creates knowledge through first-rate research; • builds bridges between science, business and society; • promotes social innovation by applying the best knowledge available.

Contact Would you like to learn more about KWR Watercycle Research Institute? Then contact us:

Postal address KWR Watercycle Research Institute PO Box 1072 3430 BB Nieuwegein The Netherlands

T +31 (0)30 60 69 511 F +31 (0)30 60 61 165 E I Chamber of Commerce 27279653

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