Flanders has been plagued by drought for the fourth year in a row. This is causing water scarcity and low groundwater levels. It also has other negative effects, such as the salinisation of ground and surface water in coastal areas and ports. With the expansion of the Internet of Water Flanders (IoW), our region will be monitoring a number of water quality parameters – including salinity – permanently and in real-time in a few years, via a network of IoT sensors. This will support the government and other stakeholders in taking efficient measures.
In the polders, the drought is reducing the freshwater bubble that lies on top of the salty (deeper) groundwater. So, in dry periods, we can more salinisation. Another cause of salinisation is the intrusion of seawater along rivers and canals, for example at locks. Here, too, drought plays an important role: this intrusion becomes stronger when there is insufficient flow on the watercourse.
Control of water flows
Using sensors and modelling applications, we will be able to better monitor where salinisation is occurring or will occur. Because the data is immediately available, water management measures can be taken faster and more efficiently. For example, directing water flows through water level management in the polders or using sewage water treatment effluent to flush out salt water flows, operating locks to minimise intrusion. Sensor data can also indicate whether effluent has a higher or lower salt concentration than the receiving watercourses, so that we can consider whether discharging it has a positive or negative effect on salinisation.
Real-time monitoring of salinisation also reduces its impact on water users. For example, it will be possible to better monitor the salinisation of the Yser in West Flanders, or the situation in our canals and port areas. This can then be taken into account when taking at water in the water production centres, such as the one at De Blankaart (Diksmuide), or water-intensive industry at the ports.