Two grants awarded from European call on sustainable water systems

The board of the NWO domain Exact and Natural Sciences (ENW) has approved eight project proposals for the Joint Programming Initiative "Water challenges for a changing world" (Water JPI). The Joint Programming Initiative addresses the ambitious challenge of enabling sustainable water systems for a sustainable economy in Europe and beyond. Amongst them, two projects led by researchers from the University of Twente were approved.

Het project iAqueduct is being led by Bob Su, full professor in Spatial Hydrology and Water Resources Management at the faculty of ITC. RECOTWATDIG is being led by Gerrit Brem and Artur Pozarlik of the department of Thermal Engineering at the ET Faculty.

iAqueduct - An integrative information aqueduct to close the gaps between global satellite observation of water cycle and local sustainable management of water resources

An integrative information aqueduct (iAqueduct) is proposed to close the gaps between global satellite observation of water cycle and local needs of information for sustainable management of water resources. In the past decades, various satellite missions have been developed to monitor the global water cycle, in particular the variables related to precipitation, evapotranspiration and soil moisture, often at (tens of) kilometre scales of spatial resolution.

Whilst these data are highly effective to characterize water cycle variation on regional to global scale, they are not suitable for sustainable management of water resource, which always needs more detailed information on local (e.g. in terms of information provided by an in-situ sensor, e.g. a TDR for soil moisture or a piezometer for groundwater level) and field scale.

The 2018 summer European drought will be used as a concrete retrospective application to demonstrate the advantage of using detailed water cycle information for water management in collaboration with local water authorities, e.g. the Vechtstromen in the Twente area.

From satellite data to fine-scale information

To effectively exploit existing knowledge at different scales we thus need to answer the following questions:

  • How to downscale the global water cycle products to local scale?
  • How to convert the coarse resolution data into fine scale water information at the management scale for water, vegetation and soil processes?
  • And how to use such fine-scale water information to improve the management of soil and water resources?

Combining data

The envisioned iAqueduct aims to accomplish these goals combining Copernicus satellite data (intermediate resolution) with high resolution Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and in-situ observations to develop scaling functions for soil properties and soil moisture and evapotranspiration at meter scales. iAqueduct will integrate the various components from the global water cycle observation to local soil and water states in an open-source water information system and test and demonstrate their utility on pan-European scale at a set of carefully selected research sites for sustainable management of water resources.

iAqueduct complements the actions developed under the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) by coordinating a set of European research groups and sites allowing the scaling up to pan-European level under the aegis of the COST action Harmonization of UAS techniques for agricultural and natural ecosystems monitoring (HARMONIOUS) in which 70 institutions from 32 countries participate.

RECOWATDIG - Sustainable technology for the staged recovery of an agricultural water from high moisture fermentation products

The project is aimed at obtaining a technical design of a modular and transportable installation for the staged recovery of an agricultural water from drying of high moisture fermentation products.

RECOWATDIG comprises an innovative, transdisciplinary approach, by enabling access to currently neglected water resources, i.e. water evaporated during drying of high moisture solid fermentation products. It is aimed to achieve high synergy by integrating water recovery with improved heat balance of the drying process and additional utilization of the latent heat, that could be recovered during water condensation.

Smart grid ready

Since the hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is applied, the potential for synergy is enhanced further, due to positive effects in terms of dewaterability and sanitization. Purification of the water from two separately obtained streams is achieved by the use of different types of membrane processes that optimize the use of the electricity as well as CAPEX and maintenance cost. The utilization of electricity is further improved by accumulation and storage of pure water, allowing to minimize the costs by using electricity during off peak hours. This makes the proposed technology “smart grid ready”.


An additional benefit of the proposed technology of water recovery from digestate is the reuse of the resulting concentrate: it will be recycled to the wastewater processing as a technological liquid, which increases the hydration of the sludge. Due to the use of concentrate this is a waste-free technology (zero liquid discharge). The proposed installation will allow to turn digestate into a valuable and marketable product.

The project consortium consists of academics from various disciplines, technology developer and a key user. This guarantees maximization of practicality of the proposed solutions, which are the key factor in the commercialization of the developed technology in the future.

Laurens van der Velde
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)