Robust Water Systems Webinar Series

The climate is changing. Challenges such as increasing drought, the rising sea level and subsidence are intensifying the need for climate-proof and robust water systems. We believe that the only way to deliver future-proof solutions is through collaboration and a holistic vision.

With this in mind, between 12 January and 18 May 2021, we organised a ten-part webinar series on climate-proof and robust water systems, in which a Witteveen+Bos employee presented a webinar alongside a partner, client or peer. Each webinar focused on a different topic. Curious to find out more? The webinar recordings are all available below.


Following on from this webinar series, we asked a selection of scientists, water managers, consultants and practitioners about their own moonshot idea and what they are doing to achieve it. Read their ideas and get inspired to contribute to structurally different, better, fairer and more climate-robust water management.

01 | Global introduction

The challenges we face as a society, such as the energy transition, the increase in droughts, rising sea levels and subsidence, are forcing us to rethink our water system. Our challenge for 2050 is to determine what we need to do to move towards a climate-robust water system. In this webinar, Sebastiaan Schep of Witteveen+Bos and Tim van Hattum of WUR discuss the challenges ahead and how we can use our knowledge to find a suitable solution. A holistic understanding of our water systems serves as a starting point.

02 | Drought & fresh water supply

This webinar discusses the issues related to drought and fresh water supply and possible solutions. Ebbing van Tuinen provides background information on drought and fresh water supply, analyses the broader implications for society and presents ideas on desirable and necessary solutions, such as increased use of rainwater, improved water supply and adaptation. Jip Welkers of Vitens presents Panorama Waterland, a concept whereby spatial planning is determined by the water system.

03 | Drought & nature

This webinar looks at the issues surrounding groundwater depletion. Groundwater depletion is a key issue for wetlands in our Delta and is the result of structural dewatering, increased groundwater extraction and reduced groundwater replenishment. This webinar also looks at drought. Although drought is essentially a natural phenomenon, climate change is making drought more of a problem. In this webinar, Flip Witte and Remco van Ek provide background information on groundwater depletion and drought, analyse the impact on nature and discuss current policy and concrete measures that can be taken.

04 | Vital soil

In this webinar, Corinne Koot zooms in on the role of soil in achieving climate targets and a climate-robust water system, both in rural and urban areas. Although vital soil is mainly associated with rural areas (and the challenges/functions of agriculture and nature), vital soil is also essential for achieving climate targets and ensuring that the soil and water system in urban areas are used in sustainable ways. Matheijs Pleijter of Aequator and the day's host, Judith van Mortel of HAS University of Applied Sciences, also discuss soil organic matter.

05 | Subsidence & groundwater levels

The climate is changing and this is having an impact on the water system. On the one hand sea levels are rising, and on the other, drought is causing the ground in many parts of the Netherlands to subside even faster. Subsidence affects the agricultural sector, our water security and the management and maintenance of the built environment. It is therefore an acute and integrated problem that requires collaboration between regional and national governments, research institutes and the business community. In this webinar, Matthias Hoendermis and Ingrid van den Brink are joined by Jeroen Mekenkamp of Platform Slappe Bodem (PSB) and Elisabeth Ruijgrok to answer questions such as: How does subsidence occur and how does it affect the water system and the climate? What can be done to tackle subsidence? And how can we make carefully considered choices for each area?

06 | Water issues

Flooding in urban and rural areas is a major challenge, not least because of increasing climate extremes. What is the current state of affairs? What can we expect to see as a result of climate change? And how are policy-makers responding to this? Karin Snel (Utrecht University) and Jaap Klein discuss these and other questions using a case study to illustrate connections with other topics.

07 | Heat & the water system

As a result of climate change and urbanisation, the Physiological Equivalent Temperature (PET) can soar on a hot summer's day. This can cause health problems. To visualise heat stress, Witteveen+Bos and Wageningen University have created a heat map to indicate the perceived temperature. This makes it possible to determine where cooling measures are needed and to calculate their effect. Anna Goede talks more about this in this webinar.

08 | Water quality

The wonderful world of water quality – a world that is vital to us and to life on earth (biodiversity, drinking water, water for food supply, industry, recreation, etc.). But also a world that is under severe pressure due to the way we organise and use land. Jelle Roorda (Roorda Advies), Marloes van der Kamp (Witteveen+Bos) and Maarten Veldhuis (Vallei en Veluwe water authority) delve into this world and explain that a large-scale, integrated approach is needed that goes beyond current policies; an approach in which structural choices are made about the way we organise and use our land, and about how we can restore the sponge effect, reduce surface and subsurface runoff and the discharge of emissions and harmful substances, and make room for nature, both on land and underwater. According to the speakers, water quality can serve as a mirror for a successful water transition. After all, if we get the water quality right, issues related to other major challenges such as nitrogen, drought, fresh water supply and soil degradation will also have been addressed. 

09 | Circularity

To prevent drought and salinisation, effluent from wastewater treatment plants could be used as a source of fresh water in many places. WWTPs are also increasingly being equipped with systems to remove a wide range of nutrients, pharmaceutical residues and other micro-contaminants from effluent. The resulting effluent is of much higher quality than before – and that is opening up opportunities. In this webinar, Arjen van Nieuwenhuijzen discusses the value of closing the loop in robust water systems. Together with Ferdinand Kiestra (Aa en Maas water authority), he outlines opportunities for and challenges to water circularity and discusses the value and feasibility of closing the water chain.

10 | Integrated local area process

In this interactive concluding webinar, led by Jacqueline Bulsink, we look back at the systems discussed (water, nature, rural and urban, soil). Rather than focusing on the content, we explore the process in the area where these systems are at play. The main question here is: how can we ensure that we provide effective advice on robust water systems, and what resources do we need to do this? This process analysis highlights the importance of an integrated approach: involving the right social actors (i.e., governments, water authorities) at the right time in the process.