Sustainable solutions in urban water management
Besides his work at KWR, Jan Vreeburg has also, over the past 11 years, contributed to research into drinking water distribution at TU Delft. He now moves to Wageningen University, where, as Associate Professor of Urban Environmental Technology and Management, he will extend his field of research in drinking water to encompass wastewater.
The Environmental Technology research group, of which Vreeburg is a member, focuses among other things on new sanitation techniques: the possibilities of separating urine and faecal waste immediately in the toilet bowl, or of saving water. “Pharmaceutical residues are eliminated primarily in the urine. The separation of the urine can thus reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals present in wastewater. And phosphorus, among other things, can be recovered from faeces,” says Vreeburg. Because phosphorus is a finite resource, the reuse of this plant nutrient is necessary for securing world food production. Vreeburg is quite conscious of where exactly he can add value: “My colleagues at Wageningen are really good at coming up with theoretical models, but they have to admit that they’ve little clue about keeping “pooh, pee and water apart ”. That calls for pipes and pumps. And it is in that physical dimension that my expertise lies.”
Sustainable urban management
Vreeburg’s work is of significance for sustainable cities. “Cities that have limited water supplies have to be clever in their water management,” he says. “In the Netherlands saving water is not a very relevant issue, but closing nutrient cycles and capturing pharmaceutical residues certainly are.” Another example of sustainable urban management is the joint scheduling of maintenance work on cables and water mains. “This saves the city money and spares the inhabitants a lot of inconvenience.”
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