Home ITCNWO-KIC grant to UT research on water use during droughts

NWO-KIC grant to UT research on water use during droughts

In the past few years, the Netherlands faced several droughts with huge economic costs. The UT leads a consortium of 17 (public and private) partners and stakeholders that will develop an integrated monitoring and modelling system to understand the behaviour of soil and vegetation during prolonged droughts. The consortium receives a KIC grant from NWO of 1.5 million euros to find groundbreaking solutions that mitigate the damage caused by droughts.

The WUNDER project (Water Use and Drought Ecohydrological Responses of Agricultural and Nature Ecosystems in the Netherlands) will develop a novel system that uses its understanding of droughts to come up with the best measures to mitigate drought damage to crops. “We presume that diversified water-soil-plant systems can make areas more resilient to droughts and can be one of the measures”, explains lead PI prof. dr. Bob Su.

Current models

Current operational models use a concept called reference evaporation to derive the actual evaporation of water. This model has well-watered grass as the reference vegetation. “We think this assumption is not valid during a drought. It causes huge uncertainty for precise estimation of the available water”, says Su. Part of the WUNDER project are observations in the field and physical modelling to overcome the uncertainty during droughts.


The project leader was initially inspired by his daughter’s Bachelor thesis. “She investigated the alternative value practices of food forest Ketelbroek. Satellite images from the area during the drought in 2018 showed a green oasis between brown crop fields. This sparked my interest”, says Su. To further investigate the role food forests can play in the resilience to droughts, the Dutch Food Forestry Foundation joined WUNDER as one of the 13 collaborating partners.

Liduin Bos Burgering will conduct her PhD research as an industrial doctorate at Deltares. As a pilot study, she already installed fibre optic cables in one of the farms at Veenink Akkerbouw. Together with Miriam Coenders from Delft University of Technology, they wanted to establish a ‘Digital Twin Field’ to measure the actual evaporation and the local advection effect induced by irrigations during droughts.


The project will actively engage with these collaborating partners – consisting of farmers, water managers and other decision-makers – to develop practical use cases for daily drought monitoring and prediction, thereby supporting climate-robust production systems and water management. Next to the partners, the consortium consists of four (applied) universities (University of Twente, Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University, HAS University of Applied Science) and four co-funders (Deltares, Wageningen Environmental Research, Planet and HKV).

More information

The WUNDER project receives a KIC grant of 1.5 million euros from NWO. The KIC programme (Knowledge and Innovation Covenant) stands for groundbreaking innovative solutions with societal and economic impact. Companies, knowledge institutions and government bodies jointly invest in the commercial application of knowledge so that smart technologies can tackle major societal challenges.

About the Project

Title: WUNDER – Water Use and Drought Ecohydrological Responses of Agricultural and Nature Ecosystems in the Netherlands: Towards Climate-Robust Production Systems and Water Management

(Co-)applicants: Prof. Dr. Z. Su, Dr. Y. Zeng, Dr. C. van der Tol, Dr. W. Timmermans (UT), Dr. M Coenders, (TUD), Prof. A. Weerts, Prof. P. Hellegers, ir. G. Borghuis (WU), Lector D. Groot, Dr. E. Weerman (HAS)

Co-funders: Deltares, Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR), Planet, HKV.

Collaborating partners: Waterschapshuis/STOWA (Hoogheemraadschap de Stichtse Rijnlanden), Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), WVL -Water, Verkeer en Leefomgeving (WVL), Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Stichting Voedselbosbouw Nederland (VBNL-Voedselbos Ketelbroek, Voedselbos Schijndel), LTO Noord, DeltaplanAgrarischWaterbeheer (DAW),  Zoetwaterwatervoorziening Oost-Nederland (ZON), Sencrop, Veenink Akkerbouw, Waterschap Aa en Maas (AenM), Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe (VenV), Herenboeren Wenumseveld

Grant size: € 1.5 million

K.W. Wesselink - Schram MSc (Kees)
Science Communication Officer (available Mon-Fri)