Imec to tackle growing water risks with internet of water


The Belgian region of Flanders pioneers the internet of water, a unique intelligent water management system based on  a network of connected sensors, that enables a permanent and real time follow-up of water quality and quantity. This is expected to enable Flanders to tackle the growing threat of water inconvenience, water scarcity and water pollution. Recently Flanders’ minister-president Geert Bourgeois activated a first sensor, close to The Blankaart in Diksmuide.

With the internet of water, Flanders aims to roll-out a large-scale permanent sensor network that maps the available water reserves and monitors the water demand at the same time. The network, will feature more than 1000 small, wireless low power water quality sensors (developed by the Belgian research institute imec) spread around Flanders, that will continuously monitor the quality of soil water, groundwater, surface water and purified sewage water, to better align the available water reserves to the demand.

Most recently, a pilot project was launched, starting with the first experiments to examine how measurements can be done accurately, to explore the technical challenges to guarantee the reliability and scalability of a broad network, and to determine how to visualise the data and make them available for the public.

A number of prominent companies and research institutions leverage their expertise for this project with a large societal interest. The five partners of this project – VITO, De Watergroep, Aquafin, imec and Vlakwa – have the ambition to turn Flanders into an international front runner in smart water management through the application of innovative digital technologies.

The sensors are developed by imec, the renowned research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies.

Marcel Zevenbergen from imec said: “After several years of intensive research, imec has succeeded in developing a very small sensor that can measure acidity and conductivity, as well as quantify diverse dissolved substances in the water.  Until now this required a combination of different sensors that could cost up to thousands of euros each.”

The need for a system to follow-up the quality and quantity of water on a large scale became obvious in the last years. Water inconvenience or water scarcity are issues that almost live permanently in the public opinion today – with the drought of this and last year and the strong thunderstorms of this spring. Therefore the internet of water is of big importance to various actors in the water business.

“The detailed follow-up of the water system with predictions of future evolutions will allow us to manage the sewage system more efficiently, so that we can better respond to strong showers and periods of drought,” says Jan Goossens, managing director of the water treatment company Aquafin.

Flanders’ minister-president Geert Bourgeois added: “Our water is scarce and needs to be treated in a sustainable way. An efficient water management is necessary so that all users in Flanders can count on sufficient water supply. I am pleased that companies, knowledge centres and authorities join together to turn Flanders into a world leader in innovation in the water sector with a unique intelligent water management system.”  

Caption: imec is part of the alliance that aims to establish an internet of water in Flanders (photo: imec)

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