Increasing the availability of fresh water in coastal areas

News - 01 February 2022 - Webredactie

Climate-proof agriculture in the saline coastal delta of the Netherlands

Fresh water is scarce in the Dutch coastal area. Climate change and salinisation are putting freshwater availability under even more pressure. This is a problem for agriculture and horticulture in coastal areas, especially in dry summers. In the AGRICOAST project, led by Boris van Breukelen of TU Delft, a consortium of knowledge institutions, companies and social organisations aims to increase the availability of fresh water in the Dutch coastal area. The project has been awarded a grant of 1.5 million euros from NWO to appoint five PhD students.

Climate-resilient agriculture in the Dutch salinizing coastal delta: innovative water management, adaptive agriculture, and promising transition pathways (AGRICOAST)

The aim of AGRICOAST is to both increase the availability of fresh water and to promote its efficient use through a combination of technological innovations, water management innovations and innovative policy packages.

In various Field Labs, for example on Texel and in the Lauwersmeer area, research will be conducted in cooperation with farmers and Acacia Water into how infiltrating rainwater can be better retained in the (agricultural) soil by means of level-controlled drainage. In addition, research is taking place into upscaling water storage in the deeper subsurface in aquifers. This will be combined with pre-treatment of the fresh but polluted drainage water to be infiltrated, to improve both water availability and quality.

In order to increase the efficiency of freshwater use, in the same Field lab researchers will look into underground irrigation of crops by means of the drainage system (sub-irrigation); into the smarter flushing of polders that are salinizing due to brackish groundwater seepage, using the fresh water from the IJsselmeer; and into combined salt and drought stress in crops (by WUR) so that irrigation is only applied when necessary. This project nicely illustrates the complementarity of 'blue' TU Delft and 'green' WUR knowledge.

Field labs often operate outside the regular policy framework, limiting large-scale application and so stagnating the transition to an actual climate adaptive system. A PhD student led by Delft scientists Ellen Minkman, Wijnand Veeneman and Leon Hermans will research ways to scale up these pilots nonetheless, using a serious game. This serious game, which is being developed with the aid of TU Delft's Game Lab, investigates how new administrative interventions can support water boards and other authorities in policy-making for climate-adaptive agriculture and horticulture.

Project leader Boris van Breukelen: "In AGRICOAST we develop technologies using the TU Delft approach: by combining flexible design, thorough field research, model development and knowledge of what will work in practice, we develop integrated solutions that can make the difference."

The consortium

Involved researchers are:

  • Boris van Breukelen, Edo Abraham, Kim Lompe, Olivier Hoes, Mark Bakker - TU Delft - Department of Water Management - Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences
  • Ellen Minkman, Wijnand Veeneman, Leon Hermans - TU Delft - Multi Actor Systems, Faculty of Technology, Governance & Management
  • Hannah Schneider, Paul Struik - Wageningen University

The consortium consists of companies, knowledge institutions and social organisations. The following parties participate: Acacia Water, Wageningen University, Stichting Hagelunie, Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier, Wetterskip Fryslân, Waterschap Noorderzijlvest, STOWA, Broere Beregening, Field Factors, Van Leeuwen Trenchless Technology, P2, Deltares, LTO-Noord, The Potato Valley, Stichting Proefboerderijen Noordelijke Akkerbouw, Greenport Boskoop, and various farmers, including Mts van der Ploeg-Rispens, VOF Langeveld, and agricultural company Arends.

About NWO

The project AGRICOAST is funded by NWO from the programme 'Climate resilient production systems and water management'. This is a call within the main line MISSION of the Knowledge and Innovation Covenant (KIC) 2020-2023, which aims to stimulate research into integral solutions for climate resilient agricultural production within the regional soil and water systems, also paying attention to social aspects. The interdisciplinary research projects have a maximum duration of six years and will start in mid-2022.

Four projects have been awarded in this call. TU Delft is leading this project. In addition, Miriam Coenders (Water Management, CITG) is participating in the WUNDER project, which is being led by the University of Twente.

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