Gilbert Galjaard

January 17, 2023

“Ramboll Water’s strategic focus areas fit my work experience as a glove“

Gilbert Galjaard is the newest addition to our Advanced Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology team. Gilbert has more than 30 years’ experience in a wide spectre of advanced water treatment technologies and was Chief Process Engineer in Nanostone prior to working in Ramboll. We are excited to see where Gilbert and his team can lead Ramboll Water.

Why did you decide to join Ramboll Water?
It actually took a while before I finally joined, but I knew Esther Bosman, Rene Hoeijmakers, Cor Merks and Jonathan Clement already and having those as future colleagues definitely appealed to me. The biggest appeal, however, was the amazing narrative that was pitched to me. I was offered a role in which I would help build a team from scratch in order to achieve Ramboll’s ambition to be the Partner for Sustainable Change. Ramboll Water’s strategic focus areas fit my work experience as a glove and one of those focus areas is sustainable advanced water treatment and supply, which is very close to my heart.
What is your new role in Ramboll and what does that role entail?
My official title is Global Practice Leader Advanced Water Treatment, facing both clients and colleagues for consultancy on advanced as well as conventional treatment technologies. I am less a manager and more of a process engineer developing process options and integrating technologies. For example, if our client has a challenge in water and wastewater treatment, I will come up with several technological solutions and compare them based on water quality, costs, life cycle analysis and so forth to pick the most interesting technology to pilot and finally come up with a preliminary process design.
Which advanced water treatment technologies are trending right now?
Membrane filtration, such as reverse osmosis and ion exchange, is really big. When it comes to new solutions it makes sense to sometimes rethink how and when we use existing technologies rather than invent new ones. Let us take ion exchange – the technology is actually not new but using it as the first step, and not the last, in water treatment is.
Another big trend is advanced oxidation which taps into the global water scarcity issue. A big part of the world depends on surface water, but surface water is full of micropollutants from pharmaceutical residue, PFAS, textiles, and so forth. We have at least 1000 different dissolved micropollutants in the water, some of which we cannot even measure, making it less or unsuitable for consumption. Therefore, we might need oxidation of the surface water on such a high level that pollutants are degraded and totally removed out of the environment instead of filtered and discharged back into the environment.
Which do you find to be the most important ones?
The most important thing is not the trends or technologies per se, but the challenges they address and how. We should be cleaning up our surface water and not discharging more pollution. This goes for wastewater as well as drinking water. To succeed, we have to consider how we make our treatment processes more sustainable. Reverse osmosis and nano-filtration have great potential, but we will still be left with concentrate to dispose of. So how can we treat the waste from membrane processes for resource recovery? Phosphate for example is a limited resource but also an essential resource. Nothing in this world grows without it. With the right process, we can harvest important resources such as phosphate from waste streams, making it more sustainable and part of the circular economy.
To round off, what ambitions do you have on behalf of Ramboll Water within your field of expertise?
Making the world a better place gives me joy and pride in my work, which is the most important thing I learned about work in the last 30 years. So Ramboll’s ambitions are very well aligned with my own. What we, Ramboll and I, want is to be recognized as a sustainable partner, and that involves technology.
As mentioned, we need more sustainable technologies to ensure that we lower the negative impact on the globe, and my ambition is to help Ramboll Water support that. We do not want to foul up our groundwater, surface water, rivers, or seas any further. So, we will figure out how advanced treatment can help us succeed in resource recovery, and water reuse – rather than discharging water into the rivers as waste, and thereby contaminating natural resources, we should treat it to make it suitable for drinking or harvest it for resources.
More specifically, I look forward to building up this team and add something extra to the great foundation that is already there. We are going to the next level in water treatment. In general, except for a few bold ones, the drinking water industry is very conservative compared to other industries and water is expected to be cheap. It is a difficult industry to navigate in when you wish to be innovative, but hopefully we can convince a client to pursue the opportunity and together take on a pioneering role in the water industry. Right now, I am in the best position to make a change and we know that there are clients out there ready to do something different and new. So, I expect my team and I to collaborate with a few clients for a start and focus on how to solve the challenges they are confronted with.