Our drinking water springs from the natural system of ground and surface water and extracting water from usable underground freshwater supplies is well-developed in the Netherlands. Even so, there are a number of areas suitable for innovative research. Not only areas that the Dutch water pipeline companies want to research for their own operations but also areas bidding opportunities for the international marketing of their products and services.
There are three areas of interest within the theme:
• Well management: abstraction and infiltration well techniques
• The underground as spring and other functions
• Control of the water cycle
As far as well management is concerned, blockages are a serious problem. Blocked wells can have several causes; mechanical well blockages are caused by particulate matter and are the most well researched type of blockage. Chemical blockages, on the other hand, have barely been studied. Researching the cause (diagnosis) of the blockage in order to prevent it (prognosis) by monitoring and regeneration should lead to more efficient and (more importantly) more cost effective operations.
An important reason to seek out smart concepts for the development of the underground is the increasing pressure on available space. This will allow us to treat the underground as more than a water source; for example, it could also be used as a reactor vessel. Another idea is some sort of synergy with energy. The underground is also a good choice for storage when water supply and demand are not in synch. This will require better hydrological and hydrochemical analysis of (underground) water systems, allowing us to make reliable estimates of the effects and feasibility of this kind of concept. This knowledge will also help in choosing well locations and purification strategies.
The underground is of course part of a larger whole, the water cycle. In the third area of interest, innovative concepts will be developed to manage the quality and level of surface and groundwater, and also to create functional applications robust enough for water level changes.