Vitens enhances biodiversity while ensuring long-term water supply

Globally, freshwater sources are increasingly strained due to overuse, pollution, and the effects of climate change. The Netherland’s largest drinking water company focuses on innovation to futureproof its water supply, including by creating biodiverse wetlands.
The complete Vitens team
© Vitens
Water sources are under pressure, forcing water utilities globally to rethink their water abstraction, treatment, and distribution systems. In the Netherlands, high-quality groundwater is becoming a scarce resource. This fact led Vitens, Netherland’s largest groundwater-dependent utility company, to rethink its water supply strategy.
Water scarcity
“24/7 high-quality water supply in the Netherlands is at risk by year 2030 due to water scarcity,” according to the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
To develop a future-proof drinking water system, Vitens is investing in a “living lab.” The lab will function as a testing facility and demonstration plant for using wetland landscapes as water management systems and for new drinking water treatment technologies.
Defining living labs
Real-world innovation environments where the full lifecycle of concepts, technologies, and solutions are assessed and validated using iterative feedback processes
This living lab project will help to develop better blueprints and standards for drinking water facilities to be more modular, adaptive, and scalable for future use. The living lab will also foster experiential innovation and help Vitens meet their short-term need of producing extra drinking water.
Ramboll is part of a contractor-led team selected to collaborate with Vitens to develop and scale the drinking water living lab. This project supports to Vitens’ long-term ambition is to develop what they call an “eternal source” of clean and well-protected groundwater. The company previously developed their Panorama Waterland system in which water abstraction, nature development, circular and sustainable agriculture, and recreation go hand in hand.
The cross-sectorial project team—which goes by the abbreviation LLEV, meaning “guts” or "courage" in Dutch—responded to this need by linking long-term ambitions to short-term needs of producing extra water from alternative sources.
As international subject matter experts and project partners, Ramboll supports Vitens and other project teams for all three phases of the contract including design, building, and operations and maintenance. Designs are the focus of phase 1, phase 2 focuses on the full-scale demonstration plant with a capacity of 5-10 million m3 per year built, and phase 3 will demonstrate and optimise the systems. The demonstration plant adds 600 m3/hour production capacity to Vitens’ water supply.
Applying this approach resulted in an integrated drinking water concept which includes a new reservoir and wetlands ecosystem next to potential open infiltration areas. Alongside other conventional treatment and supply methods, these elements will support and reinforce biodiversity. Particularly, the wetlands can function as a treatment system using the natural processes existent in wetland vegetation, soils, and their associated microbial assemblages to improve water quality.
Distinct ecosystems that are flooded or saturated by water, either permanently for years or decades or seasonally for shorter periods. Wetlands are among the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal species. About 40% of the world's plant and animal species depend on wetlands, including 30% of all known fish species. They are also vital for humanity to thrive.
Utility organisations all over the world share Vitens’ challenges and require more resilient water infrastructure systems. A panel of international experts from leading water utilities and universities will support the project to gain any potential new insights and innovative methods from the project.

“We have had a natural fit, and benefit greatly from the knowledge Ramboll brings from other water resilience projects. We work in such an integrated way, that it is hard to tell who is from Vitens or Ramboll. We have a responsibility to solve this important task, and that is a big driver.”

Doeke Schippers
Leading Professional and Advisor to the Vitens Board

Project statistics

  • : #1
    Vitens is the Netherlands’ largest water utility
  • : 5-10
    million m3/year capacity of the living lab demonstration plant
  • : 40%
    of the world's plant and animal species depend on wetlands.

Constructing wetlands to support biodiversity

© Vitens Project model considering multiple water sources, including manufactured wetlands and a water treatment plant to produce clean drinking water

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