Building with Nature

The Netherlands constantly has to battle against the threat of flooding from the ocean and rivers as a vast area of its land is below sea level. However, the last major flood was way back in 1953. The success of water management in Netherlands is largely rooted in careful spatial planning and ‘building with nature’ to achieve a resilient flood-proof landscape. The concept of Building with Nature was invented by the the Dutch water authority, Rijkswaterstaat, and several other research institutes and consultancy agencies. The concept basically develops waterworks by integrating infrastructure, nature and society for sustainable water management solutions. Working with nature, rather than against it, is seen as being more efficient and less costly. One such example is giving room to the river “ruimte voor de rivier“. During peak discharges, usually in winter and spring, the river has special designated areas along its banks where water can be stored and transported. These so called uiterwaarden or flood plains in English are of low commercial values with almost no buildings being built on them. In this way, the (financial) damage the river can cause is minimal. During normal water levels, these areas are normally used for recreation and cattle grazing.

In the picture and clip below you can see the river Waal near Nijmegen which has been fed large amounts of rain and meltwater from Switzerland and Germany in recent weeks. Despite it looking rather serious, the situation is very much under control as the flood plains are compensating for the high water level. It shows that Building with Nature is the way to go!


Panama Canal and City

One of the most remarkable man made infrastructure I have ever seen. The Panama Canal at 80 kilometers long uses a system of three locks where these massive ships get elevated from sea level to an impressive 26 meters! The canal cuts through the isthmus of Panama through some low mountains at the Culebra Cut and an reservoir called Gatun Lake. The whole trip takes only 8 to 10 hours which saves a lot of time compared to travelling around the continent of South America! Surrounding the canal are primary tropical rainforests that act as sponges for the canal in times of high rainfall…it shows that building with nature is the way to go! Panama City is a modern, largely Americanised metroplolis, with lively residents 😊 

Old town
Down town


The Anammox process was developed by the Technical University of Delft and is an innovative treatment process for the removal of ammonium from wastewater. It is a shortcut in the nitrogen cycle in which ammonium is directly converted into nitrogen gas. The Anammox process occurs within one of the many granules present in the reactor. Half of the ammonium is oxidized into nitrite by nitration bacteria. Subsequently, Anammox bacteria convert the nitrite and the rest of the ammonium into nitrogen gas. The whole process takes place in one reactor which makes the Annamox process very compact. In conventional methods, at least two reactors are needed for the nitrification and denitrification steps. Another advantage of the Annamox process is that far less oxygen is required to drive the conversion of the ammonium, which substantially reduces the overall treatment cost. Anammox treatment is particularly suited for industrial wastewater high in ammonium content 🙂


Illustration retrieved from: on the 27th of August 2017

Engineering with Membranes 2017

Between the 26th and 28th of April the annual Engineering with Membranes was held in Singapore organised by the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC). The main goal of the conference was to share knowledge on recent advances in membrane science and technology. Leading membrane specialists from around the world gave a total of 70 lectures covering desalination, reclamation & resource recovery, molecular separation, membrane fouling, gas separation, pre-treatment, industrial & bioprocess application and membrane monitoring. The Dutch representative at this conference was Dr. Emile Cornelissen, senior researcher at KWR, who presented his research on controlling Reverse Osmosis (RO) fouling after minimal pre-treatment. His main conclusion was that the 1-step RO scenario was approximately 20% lower in costs than the Ultrafiltration (UF) – RO scenario. Air/water cleaning is effective to control clogging, while lowering flux values results in less membrane fouling.