Internet of Water Flanders as an innovation accelerator for water policy in Flanders

Internet of Water Flanders is of great value for future water policy in Flanders. The measurement network offers local authorities more opportunities to provide detailed insights into the water quality in their area and, in the long term, it will also offer the chance to hold all the actors involved responsible for water quality, according to Bernard De Potter (VMM). The project facilitates a data-based policy in Flanders and puts Flanders on the international map as a water innovation region, says Bastiaan Notebaert of the Flanders Knowledge Centre Water (Vlakwa).

Bernard De Potter (VMM): “One of VMM’s tasks is to report on water quality. I see a network of data hubs for making data on water available. At present, there are three of them already:

  1. For water quantity data,
  2. For the condition of the groundwater: the Flanders Subsoil Database (DOV)
  3. For the wastewater in the sewers: the Wastewater Information System (AWIS).

A data hub could also be created for the condition of drinking water pipes. Furthermore, a good dashboard on surface water quality and a cluster with an accompanying dashboard for water experience (sports and recreation) are still missing. Up-to-date and more detailed information on water quality: this is the role set assigned to Internet of Water Flanders. Those data hubs obviously need to interact with each other.”

“When we report on water quality now, the most recent data on some parameters already dates back 2 or 3 years. We want to improve that. We therefore want to have a detailed water quality dashboard ready for the next river basin management plans.”

Bastiaan Notebaert (Vlakwa): “A data-based water policy will help us achieve the objectives of the Flemish Vision Memorandum 2050 more easily: evolving towards a robust water system.

“At Vlakwa, we’ve been advocating for years for a model in which collaboration between research institutions, companies and government leads to faster innovation and a better approach to our water challenges. That’s Internet of Water Flanders is effectively doing.”

“Another nice side to Internet of Water Flanders is the consultation sessions with the stakeholders. By enabling them to actively participate in the development of a use case, we’re convinced that the chosen solutions will be better aligned with real-world needs. That allows us to create a solution with wider support, which increases the project’s impact.”

Area-based work

Bernard De Potter (VMM): “To improve the water quality in Flanders we need to work in a more area-oriented way. Priority areas for improved water quality have been identified from different perspectives: the dune belts and polders in West Flanders, the Kleine Nete, the valley of the Herk and Mombeek, etc.

In order to improve quality, local actors need to take measures and engage in integrated water management. If we can provide local data with our data hubs, the local actors themselves will be better able to act and develop solutions.

At present, we haven’t got very far with this ambition, but Internet of Water Flanders could make a major contribution to this in a few years’ time.

VMM could implement the basic measurement network. If this is then supplemented with the sensor data from IoW, you get temporal data that offers new modelling opportunities. If low-cost IoT sensors are available, you can also shift focus to a specific defined area fairly quickly. And then I can well imagine that you could hold all the actors individually responsible. For example, the agricultural sector itself could tackle its nutrient pollution problems if farmers could do detailed, real-time monitoring.”

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