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!


The Importance of Phosphate Recovery

Sooner or later, worldwide phosphate reserves will be depleted. Currently, phosphate is seen as a pollutant due to the high amounts phosphate run-off from agricultural lands. In the future, however, phosphate will become a strategic resource since it is only available in limited amounts. It is highly essential that society starts establishing ways of recovering this valuable resource. Phosphate is essential for people, animals and plants as its incorporated in DNA, bones, ATP and enzymes. Annually, 40 million tons of phosphate are mined mainly in Morocco, China and USA. The total world reserves are estimated between 3600-8000 million tons. The production of artificial fertilizer uses by far the most amount of phosphate. 80% of the world phosphate consumption is used for the production of artificial fertilizer. From this, it is clear that in the agricultural sector there needs to be a fundamental mind-switch towards recovering phosphate. Research shows that more than half of the applied phosphate on agricultural fields is lost through run-off and leaching…what a waste!! The recovery of phosphate not only recovers a vital element for life on earth, but it also reduces pollution loads into the environment.

(Obtained data from Wageningen World Magazine, Nr. 4, 2017).

Orange ASEAN, Jakarta

Last week I participated in the fifth edition of Orange ASEAN, this time in Jakarta! Orange ASEAN is an intensive 3-week consultancy project for young professionals, entrepreneurs and master students from the Netherlands and Southeast Asia designing innovative solutions for sustainability challenges in ASEAN countries. In interdisciplinary teams, participants work together in dedicated teams developing business cases for real-life issues. My team consisted of Tulus (Indonesia), Dawn (Singapore) and Sukumal (Thailand) with Royal HaskoningDHV as our client. They asked us to developed innovative solutions to Indonesia’s water challenges…very broad for a 3-week consultancy project! In the end we narrowed the scope down and came up with two products that were well received by our client: Smart Water ANalytics (SWAN) and a Technical Advive Platform (TAP). Massive thanks to the team for making the past 3 weeks so enjoyable! We really gelled and produced some interesting stuff 🙂


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