Wetsus at Aquatech 2023: Industrial & Corporate Water World

Tackling relevant water issues from industry is at the core of Wetsus functioning. Every other year a week dedicated to water technology is hosted in Amsterdam – Aquatech.  A great place to be to get a good picture of concurrent industrial challenges and to meet the actors that are seeking solutions. “It’s all about trying to attract a maximum of sectors and make them meet in person to find cross-sectorial solutions” says Leon Korving, Wetsus, co-organizer of the event.

At Wetsus, we are designing our research program based on company needs to ensure the relevance of our work. The fact we organize the Industrial & Corporate Water World is then particularly fitting since it is made for industries to present their water-related challenges and how they are currently tackling them. Thomas Prot, Wetsus, the other organizer states that “the uniqueness of the ICWW is that the presenters are industrial end-users and not technology providers which removes the marketing part and focuses more on the content”.

Moreover, each of the six sessions is moderated by a Wetsus young water professional. They had the chance to closely interact with industry representatives and train their directing skills, a role they took on as naturals. And for those that missed it, here’s a brief selected overview of the lessons learned in the sessions.

Partnership and Proactivity

No wastewater is alike. Industries big or small may have to deal with unconventional pollutants or otherwise challenging streams. This year’s sessions started painting a picture of the various solutions corporations found, and how they dealt with their challenges.

Take for instance Chemours – the international chemical company. The products they make, mean that they have to deal with new pollutants like GenX. A key takeaway, as explained by Marc Reijmers, Manager Health, Safety & Sustainability, is that it is important to act swiftly. “Find the available technology, do test, but do so on pilot scale.” Dare to take those steps. Get everyone together, build bridges across worlds and involve the crucial academics too.

Martijn Schouten, Investment Director at Vopak Ventures, agrees. “Be proactive. Don’t wait for changes but make changes.” That is how you move forward.

It is how Darling Ingredients recovered energy and resources from meat processing wastewaters too. Arnt Vlaardingerbroek, wastewater engineer “65% of our product is water full of organic carbons and nitrogens”. And finding out how to unlock them is not something you have to do on your own.”  Core developments come from universities too.

The Value of Wastewater

Many industries will agree that wastewater cannot be wasted as it is and that there even is untapped potential.

Westlake’s Ellen Tuinman continues on that theme in session two on brines. There is more to wastewater – a desired product. There still is value in it. Not everyone may initially agree, “but show the world, and show your investors that you can sell, reuse and that there is a market for ‘waste’.”

Manager Environmental Technologies at Clariant- producer of specialty chemicals, Jozef Kochan at times sees that local water availability and discharge regulations are the main drivers affecting the wastewater value and its management. “There is still room regarding the development of energy and resource efficient technologies and wastewater treatment concepts for wastewater reuse”.

For Carlsberg brewery, frontrunner in sharing solutions, has a similar struggle. They bet on a new facility to meet high recycling demands, Andreas Kirketerp, Total Water Manager, mentions. He sees that people tend to hesitate. “We don’t have to doubt. Reusing water is safe. And we should do more so.” But we do have a way to go. Despite the quality, reused water at Carlsberg has to be used differently and cannot be labeled drinking water.

The Far Reaches of the Water World

Even companies that you might not expect to be big on water, plead for its importance and find their partnerships.

Lewis Richards, CTO UK Water Industry at Microsoft: “More and more facets of the world are digital, running on the cloud. But we should not forget that there is a physical aspect to that, wherein water plays a vital role. It is a macro challenge for 2030.” That is why they seek partnerships at Aquatech and help to educate. “With large companies comes power asymmetry and trust issues, but it also makes you able to enable others to do good.”

The mining industry faces its past reputation as an added challenge. “As an extracting business, we are still not known for our circularity, Nicholas Gurieff, principal advisor at Rio Tinto says. ”While our image lags, our engineering has caught up. We too want access to previous ‘waste’ and are seeking to reuse more water. The required knowledge comes from other industries, be it academia or R&D. So, we need places like Wetsus to help us be more sustainable. To form that circular mindset.”

See you in 2025!

Thomas Prot: “Of course we want to thank everyone that helped out, and the 24 speakers from all over the world to make this event possible. If you don´t want to miss next time, mark your calendars for 11 to 14 March 2025. We hope to see you next time!”

Towards an economy of value preservation | By Niels Faber


The realisation of a circular economy has thus far unfolded under the assumption that it would fit within existing economic arrangements. In practice, we witness many circular initiatives struggling to give shape to their ambitions, let alone develop to maturity. These past months, various material recycling organisations terminated their activities, seeing virgin alternatives from other parts of the world flooding the market at prices against they cannot compete. If the transition towards a circular economy (i.e. an economy of value preservation) is to be taken seriously, a new perspective on value in our economic system seems unavoidable, as the rewriting of the rules of the economic game. At this moment, current perceptions of value stand in the way of this transition both at micro as well as macro levels. Several contours for a collective exploration of new directions of value and economic configuration that foster circular transition will be addressed.

Searching Innovation for the Common Good | By Cees Buisman


In his key note he will conclude after a life of innovations that it is impossible that humanity will stay within the save planetary boundaries with innovation only. We should be more critical about the behaviour of the rich population in the world and more critical about new innovations that prove to be dangerous, like the PFAS crisis shows at this moment. In his keynote he will investigate how to look at the world that can stay within the save planetary boundaries, how should we change ourselves? It is clear if we only talk about the words of science and systems we miss the essential words of how we should cooperate and change ourselves. And his search for coherent save innovations. Which innovations will be save and will lead to a fair and sustainable world? And will lead to a world we want to live in.

Future-fit economic models: What do they have in common – how can they join forces? | By Christian Felber


There is a growing number of new sustainable, inclusive, cohesive, participatory, just and humane economic models. A possible next step in the discourse about them is the comparative analysis in order to find out key commonalities, potential synergies, and “requirements” for a future-fit economic model. The author and initiator of the Economy for the Common Good provides an overview of these „new sustainable economic models“ and compares them according to underlying values, principles, and practical ways of implementation. The keynote addresses the cooperative spirit of the conference and prepares the ground for its public highlight on the eve of June 3rd, the round table with representatives of diverse future-fit economic models.

The era of postgrowth economics | By Matthias Olthaar


The scientific debate on whether economies should always continue to grow increasingly becomes a political and societal debate. On the one hand further growth for the most affluent countries seems neither possible nor valuable, but on the other hand there is still lack of understanding and knowledge what a non-growing economy should look like and could best be governed. In this lecture we discuss various policy measures that can be realistically implemented, take into account government finances and aim at a higher quality of life despite a non-growing economy.

Democratic principles for a sustainable economy | By Lisa Herzog


Democracy is under pressure, and less and less able to stir the economy into a sustainable direction. Therefore, to stabilize democracy and to make possible the socio-ecological transformation of the economy, democratic principles need to be implemented directly in the economy. This is not only a matter of morality, but also has practical advantages. Democratizing the economy can increase legitimacy and take advantage of the “knowledge of the many” to accelerate the transformation. Democratic practices, especially deliberation, allow bringing together different forms of knowledge, which is crucial for the local implementation of principles of social and ecological sustainability. This talk explores what this idea means in more concrete terms, from democratic participation in the workplace to the democratization of time.

Market, state, association, and well-being. An historical approach | By Bas van Bavel


Over the past decades, markets have conventionally been seen as the best instrument to stimulate economic growth and enhance prosperity and well-being. The automatic link between markets and economic growth is increasingly questioned, however, as well as the automatic link between economic growth and enhancement of well-being. This has led to attempts to capture well-being development more directly than through GDP per capita figures and has produced a more variegated picture of well-being growth. Also, this has led to a shift of focus to other coordination systems than the market, as primarily the state but increasingly also the association. Analyses of the historical record suggest that especially the latter could be a vital component in future well-being.