Cooperation and knowledge sharing strengthen the water sector

Esther Bosman - Director BU Water NL Royal HaskoningDHV

The speaker is Esther Bosman, director of the Water Nederland business unit of Royal HaskoningDHV. The company has a total of five water business units worldwide. “Our main activity is designing and implementing projects for our customers. We like to do this with partners, such as knowledge institutions and universities, but also with fellow agencies. This is because we believe that the best results are achieved through cooperation and using one another’s knowledge.

Esther, a civil engineer, studied in Delft and encountered urban water when she started working. “I did a great many projects in that area and partly for that reason, I feel strongly connected with it. Many problems and many interests are combined in that field: heavy rain, more frequent water on roads, pressure on public space and all kinds of functions that we want to link to water. These quickly create exciting challenges.

Innovation through knowledge sharing

With ‘her’ business unit, Esther plays a pioneering role. “We are committed to tackling new topics such as the circular economy and smart water in cities, with which we want to link up various water-related interests in an intelligent fashion. We invest a lot in innovations, such as far-reaching ICT applications for managing and automating the water system. Another innovation is Nereda® wastewater purification technology, which offers great benefits in the area of chemical and energy consumption. There are now 40 such installations worldwide that are either operational or in preparation.

She refers to an unexpected spin-off of this installation, which was discovered a few years ago and involves reclaiming alginate from Nereda® granules. Alginate is a biopolymer, which is a fairly rare raw material that is usually obtained from seaweed – a very expensive process. Reclaiming it from the Nereda® sludge granules makes a sustainable raw material available for various industries. It can retain water, but can also repel it. You can use it to make paper and cardboard water-repellent and to prevent fertilizer run-off in agriculture. But it can also extend the life of concrete, for example, through improved hardening.

Standardization based on knowledge sharing

In our world, too, standards are useful for a number of reasons. Standards are a means of making ‘best practices’ explicit, so that you ensure that they become easily accessible to all. In this way, development and implementation processes can be made more efficient. In addition, standards of course guarantee a certain level of quality that we all wish to achieve,” says Esther

In view of the in-depth knowledge of the water sector that we have as Dutch parties, I think it makes sense for us (to try) to take the lead in Europe when it comes to embedding this knowledge in standards. If we fail to do this, we run the risk in the long term of having to accept the standards of other countries, which might not do justice to our level of know-how. In order to take the lead, it is crucial for all parties – government at all levels, knowledge institutions, consultancies and engineering agencies – to share their experience and knowledge as much as possible.

I have the feeling that there is still room for improvement, because on a number of standards committees I see relatively few end users, such as water authorities and local authorities. It is very important for them to be actively involved in order to fine-tune the way a standard works in practice. In addition, as water ambassador I believe it is my task to work on creating greater awareness of standardization among my contacts and to point out the added value of standardization.

View here the projects and standardization initiatives related to water.