10 of our top news stories in 2021
Another year with the Covid-19 pandemic dominating the news worldwide, is almost over. Another year in which, regardless of all restrictions, the water sector kept up their services. And a Dutch water sector that remained active abroad, seeking new partnerships and opportunities to create a more water resilient world.
A look back on some of the best news stories from the Dutch water sector.
Reduction of climate risks
2021 was again a record year with many extreme water-related disasters. Extreme high temperatures led to heat waves and droughts. Tropical cyclones and extreme rainfall caused deadly floods. Even the Netherlands got its share. Mid July an extreme large rainfall event hit the border region of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The following flash floods caused havoc and at least 212 people lost their lives.
All these disasters show that climate change is already taking its toll and measures to avoid floods and droughts are needed urgently. In 2021 this awareness was high on the international agenda of the Netherlands.
This is our last article of 2021 in which we would like to share the most memorable news we have covered over the year. The DWS editorial team selected 10 items, in no particular order, to show the expertise and very diverse international involvement of the Dutch water sector.
The team of www.dutchwatersector.com wishes you a happy and healthy 2022!
1. Award winning innovations
In 2021 several Dutch water innovations reached the international news by winning prestigious challenges. One such winner was SubMerge with its autonomous robot that can enter and inspect water pipes. With their innovative robot SubMerge won the overall Aquatech Innovation Award 2021 (see photo).
Other award winners in 2021 included:
- NX Filtration and Nijhuis Saur Industries won the Global Water Awards 2021 in the categories Breakthrough Technology Company and Industrial Projects. Nijhuis for its water reuse plant of L’Oreal in Poland. NX Filtration for the first applications of their nanofiltration technology to remove micro-pollutants.
- The Water, Peace and Security Partnership, led by IHE Delft, has been awarded the postponed 2020 Luxembourg Peace Prize for Outstanding Environmental Peace. Their work includes the monitoring of potential conflicts in water scarce regions.
- The Dutch regional water authorities were one of the winners of the Water Innovation Awards 2021 for their contribution of the collection and analyses of samples at all 313 Dutch waste water treatment plants to monitor the spreading of Corona virus SARS Cov-2.
- Ferr-Tech was selected honoree for the Innovation Awards of the world’s largest high tech exhibition CES2022. The company developed an environmental friendly oxidant to purify water.
2. Record high water levels in river Meuse
Mid July, a deep, stationary depression caused heavy rainfall in the border region of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. This resulted in flash floods that caused havoc and at least 212 people lost their lives. In the Netherlands over 50,000 people were evacuated as a precaution and most could return home safely.
The water levels in the Meuse river (see photo) were the highest ever since 1911. The levees had recently been made climate proof and at several locations the river had been given more room. As a result, the water authorities could handle the peak discharge without too much trouble. Read more >>
3. Nature-based solutions becoming popular
Working with nature instead of against it became even more popular in 2021. In order to prevent and control water-related disasters, nature-base solutions are proofing their value. Pioneers in this field shared their experiences in many webinars. One such webinar took place during the Stockholm World Water week where Deltares and World Wildlife Fund launched their report 'Economic rationale of NBS in freshwater ecosystems'.
Another event was the launch of an international guideline on nature-based solutions by US Army Corps of Engineers. Dutch national executive agency Rijkswaterstaat supported this guideline by sharing its experiences with the Building With Nature coastal programme, including the Sand engine (see photo). Read more >>
4. Water change-makers at AIWW and Aquatech
From 1 till 5 November 2021 the Amsterdam International Water Week (AIWW) and the Aquatech Amsterdam trade show took place. This year the event was hybrid and included a live exhibition of water technologies and live sessions that aimed at inspiring water professionals to be innovative and make a change. Highlights included the Dutch pavilion (see photo). The event also included the announcement of the winner of the 2021 Sarphati Sanitation Challenge, the Jordan-based start-up AKYAS Sanitation for its appropriate sewage systems to communities, such as refugee camps, city slums and informal settlements.
Another highlight was the signing of the AIWW-declaration during the Integrated Leaders Forum. The declaration called upon the delegates at the COP26 summit to pay more attention to climate adaptation and especially to ‘blue’ to the ‘green’ climate deals. Dutch water envoy Henk Ovink delivered the declaration personally to the COP26 in Glasgow. Read more >>
We covered many stories on the AIWW and Aquatech, bundled in this dossier.
5. Ocean Cleanup gets into gear
A dream came through for Boyan Slat, CEO and founder the Ocean Cleanup, when the first ship with 28 ton of garbage arrived at a Canadian harbour on 20 October. The garbage had been collected at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where a huge amount of plastic soup floats around. Eight years after its founding and three years since launching its first clean-up system, the organisation has harvested plastic with a scalable ocean clean-up design. Nine extraction tests proved successful.
A final design is expected to be three times larger with a length of 2.5 kilometres. It is expected to be the blueprint for a whole fleet of systems to reduce 50 percent of the plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean’s circulating gyre every five years. Read more >>
6. Lack of handwashing facilities to stop Covid-19
Again, much attention within the global water sector was put towards handwashing facilities in an attempt to stop the spreading of the Covid-19 virus. Many water experts were astonished by the ease with which the advice was given that everybody must wash their hands. The advice neglected to include the large areas in the world that lack access to safe water.
Many organisations intensified their efforts to build new water and soap facilities in remote areas and slums. For instance, Aqua for All and Sidian Bank that took the initiative for a Covid-19 WASH loan facility. The facility enables Sidian Bank to provide loans to small water utility companies in Kenya (see photo) to improve their water supply. Read more >>
7. ’We pulled it off’
With the whole world watching, Dutch dredging company Royal Boskalis managed to pull off the mega-container Ever Given (see photo) that ploughed itself into the sticky clay of the bank of the Suez Canal in March 2021. It took a high tide and two additional powerful offshore tugboats to free the bow of the 224,000-ton container vessel. With this successful salvage operation the obstruction of the important waterway, that lasted for almost a week, was ended. Read more >>
8. Effects of climate change already here
The Dutch government organised a virtual CAS2021 summit (see photo) in January on climate adaptation. The summit urged for more action to reduce the damages that are already eminent from climate change, such as floods, droughts, heath waves and wildfires. Top leaders from around the globe showed their support for the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) and its goal to achieve a resilient world by 2030.
One of the central issues at the summit was the collective action needed in Africa to adapt to ecological changes. African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina announced that the bank will fund more climate projects and specifically mentioned two large projects: the 8,000 km Great Green Wall across the entire width of Africa, and the delivery of digital climate advisory services to 300 million farmers. The CAS2021 was a run-up for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later in the year. High on the agenda were the impacts of extreme weather events that are already affecting vulnerable communities today. Read more >>
9. Joint venture to raise funds for SDGs
The Dutch Government and development bank FMO initiated a new joint venture called Invest International. This joint venture supports (Dutch) companies with an international financing need for their innovative solutions that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative was launched with a share capital of 833 million euro.
Invest International will fill the gap between the lack of financing options from commercial banks and the growing demand for international investments in low-income countries. Often the risks are too high for market parties. Invest International can lower that risk and make international finance available by blending public and private funds. The initial focus is on sectors in which, in terms of the SDGs, the Netherlands has a lot to offer, including agri-food, healthcare and water Infrastructure.
One project already in the portfolio is a coastal protection plan for Beira, Mozambique (see photo). This port city needs to be rebuild after it was hit by cyclone Idai in 2019. Read more >>
10. Valuing water to spur action
The theme of this year’s World Water Day was Valuing Water. On the occasion, Dutch water envoy Henk Ovink challenged everybody, both inside and outside the water sector, to look at the true value of water across supply chains and sectors for a water-secure future for everyone.
In an interview for this website, Ovink shared his views on the importance of recognising the multiple values of water. Not just in the narrow financial-economic sense, but also cultural, societal and environmental. According to Ovink there are already many good examples and it shows that these initiatives spark a process of collaboration with people from outside the water sector who enthusiastically engage in interdisciplinary projects and programmes.
The remaining challenge is to create pipelines for ‘blue’ projects and programmes, scaling up the best initiatives that accelerate the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Ovink said in the interview. Read more >>