Towards a water-wise world Annual report 2014

Pilot studies valuable for further development  

Promising subsurface water storage

8 August 2014Research

This year, too, KWR starts up and continuous several underground water storage projects – Subsurface Water Solutions (SWS) – including the Freshkeeper. The first Freshkeeper was successfully installed in the South-West Delta in 2013. For farmers and horticulturalists in the area, the availability of freshwater can’t be taken for granted. Peter de Koeijer, chair of the Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation (Zeeland section), applauds the developments: “The system saves an enormous amount of space and is therefore very promising.”

“If promising, financially manageable pilots present themselves, the farmers can respond”

The Freshmaker technique enlarges the (thin) freshwater lens under the surface in agricultural areas during the winter period, so as to better meet freshwater needs in the summer. In this manner, the growers have access to enough freshwater, even in long dry periods, without having to sacrifice surface agricultural land for storage purposes. De Koeijer, himself a farmer in Brouwershaven in Zeeland, does not yet use the Freshmaker in his operations: “The system is currently geared toward intensive cultivation, which is not how we operate. You only make the shift from a traditional to an intensive operational management if you’re sure the transition will be successful. First I want to see a couple of systems in operation and get a good sense of them.”

Crucial for agriculture and horticulture

For De Koeijer more Freshmaker pilots are needed to test the technique – this is also his view in his official capacity within the Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation (ZTLO). “If KWR moves things ahead in the field, we can make the connections with the farmers. We anticipate that in the future less rain will fall in the Netherlands during the growing season. The contribution of subsurface freshwater systems is thus crucial for agriculture’s performance. Farmers still don’t have a very clear picture of the consequences of climate change in their minds. But they are definitely interested. If promising, financially manageable pilots present themselves, the farmers can respond. We can help them translate what the Freshmaker can mean in terms of their particular business operations. I think that KWR and ZLTO should work side by side in the pilots.”

Installation of Freshmaker wells using horizontal directional drilling.

Installation of Freshmaker wells using horizontal directional drilling.

Further development for less ideal conditions

De Koeijer has an important wish when it comes to the new pilots. “I think it’s great that KWR is testing the theory in practice. So, until now, the choice has been made for ideal conditions, in terms of elevation and soil composition, for subsurface storage. This is fine as a basis for the initial testing phase. But in the future I would also like to see less-than-ideal conditions selected. For example, in Zeeland we have a variegated subsurface of clay, peat and sand. It is important to research what optimisations are needed to render the system robust for wide application, so that the investments are cost-effective.”

International projects

In 2015, KWR extended the boundaries of its SWS work in the shape of the Watershare® ASR Performance Assessor tool, and through the European Horizon 2020 SUBSOL project. Under SUBSOL, ongoing demonstration projects are being pursued and new field trials are being started in Denmark, Greece and the US (Florida). Besides KWR, the project’s partners are Vitens, ARCADIS and B-E de Lier from the Netherlands, along with eleven companies and knowledge institutes from other parts of Europe.

© 2018 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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