Water Technology

Water technology enables the delivery of clean water to the inhabitants of the delta with a strong focus on efficiency and recycling. Dutch knowledge in this area is applied and traded worldwide. Water is essential for citizens, for industry and for agriculture and therefore a key element in the economy.

Clean water and sanitation

Millions of people around the world do not have access to clean water and sanitation. As a low-lying delta, the Netherlands has historically been faced with the challenge of ensuring its inhabitants of a safe water supply. The three major rivers that flow from Europe, through the Netherlands, into the sea, have caused the Netherlands to develop cutting edge experience in water purification. Chlorine free, tasty drinking water flows out of the taps in nearly all Dutch households.

Dutch water expertise helps solve global water issues

The Netherlands has recognised specialists in the treatment of industrial waste water and several consultancies are globally respected for their water treatment expertise. Water is collected, filtered and re-cycled with high levels of quality and service in an integrated cycle, with the focus on sustainable economic development. Dutch academia and the private sector invest heavily in water-related R&D, which has resulted in innovations including membrane technology, anaerobic water purification, membrane bioreactor (MBR - small scale and high quality) and Anammox technology.

Key aspects and strengths

  • The Dutch began using innovative waste water treatment techniques in the 1970s. Some 99.9 per cent of Dutch households have access to clean, chlorine-free drinking water. Addtionally, the level of recycling of industrial waste water is high, and the water is of sufficient quality for use in the food and beverage industries.
  • The Dutch invest heavily in innovation and R&D through public-private partnerships that align the interests and resources of government, business and research partners. These include renowned institutes such as Deltares, MARIN, Wetsus and KWR Watercycle Research Institute, TNO and large Dutch private firms are also recognised for their cutting-edge water R&D.
  • The theme ‘Water for all’ is the Dutch contribution to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals for Water and Sanitation by 2015. This involves, on the one hand, high-tech water technology that can be used for water supply and water re-use. And on the other, an ‘appropriate’ water technology that is simple and inexpensive and can be developed in areas where no water supply is readily available. Financial instruments and governance are also an important precondition to ensuring that all people have access to clean water and proper sanitation.
  • There is strong institutional support and active public-private cooperation that focuses on international cooperation and the creation of water networks. Committed to a better approach to international water management, the Dutch government has signed bilateral agreements to advance integrated water management in countries across the globe.

Facts & Figures

  • In 2010, the Netherlands spent € 3.8 billion on treating drinking water, managing the sewer system and treating waste water. This sum is expected to rise of € 4.4 billion by 2020.
  • Around 2,000 companies are active in the Dutch water sector, of which 1,500 in water technology.
  • Turnover of the Dutch water sector (domestic market and export) was € 16.4 billion in 2008, of which 57% was earned by water technology companies. Exports amounted to € 6.5 billion that same year.
  • 99.9% of Dutch households have access to clean drinking water, which is entirely chlorine-free.
  • 40% of the freely accessible world market for water management is in Dutch hands.