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HZ University of Applied Sciences is situated in the heart of the South-western Delta, where the sea and rivers meet and the land is below sea level. These characteristics bring great challenges with them. Water is therefore one of the major themes of the HZ.

Because of its location, the HZ is a source of innovative solutions, not only for this region but also for delta areas worldwide. Practical research on water focuses, among other things, on the availability and quality of fresh water, coastal safety and the transitions between land and water.

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Research groups

There are several research groups that conduct water-related research.

Projects & publications related to the theme of water

Terneuzen The Netherlands


The Water Technology Research Group is a partner in the European Union Horizon 2020 programme for the research project AquaSPICE. AquaSPICE aims at Advancing Sustainability of Process Industries through Digital and Circular Water Use Innovations. Water is used during stages of production processes in most industries. It is estimated that 20% of all fresh water consumption globally is used by industry. Innovation in water treatment can bring closed loops to almost 100% efficiency for important industrial water users by recovering and reusing resources. Water scarcity is a reality for some of Dow locations around Europe. Dow is seeking opportunities to reduce the fresh water intake in the different production sites by reusing water streams. The water streams will be treated by technologies to reuse them again in the processes. Therefore, a pilot will be operated, which consists of containers with different water treatment technologies. The pilot will be operated at Dow Terneuzen, Dow Böhlen, and BASF Antwerpen. At each location, different water streams with different treatments will be tested. This case study is a collaboration between Dow (Terneuzen and Böhlen), Ghent University, Evides Industriewater, RWTH Aachen University, and HZ University of Applied Sciences. Additionally, the focus will be on intelligent water management. A water cyber-physical-system will be created with a measurement network of real-time sensors and a model will be constructed where decisions can be made. Hans Cappon, Emma McAteer and Lies Hamelink, from the Water Technology research group, are working on the AquaSPICE project. They are responsible for supporting the operational work of the pilots at Dow Terneuzen and Dow Böhlen, as well as participating in the data analyses and evaluation of the results. The project Aquaspice has received funding from European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 958396.

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Flipfarm in Waterdunen

To date, oysters in the Netherlands are cultivated at the bottom of shallow waters (i.e. bottom cultivation) or on so-called cultivation tables. Bottom culture oysters are moved twice a year to ensure ideal conditions for growth and to cope with silting. These operations require a lot of vessel movements and manual labour. The cultivation operations can also cause unwanted pressure on the environment. Consequently, stricter regulations are expected to reduce the space where oysters can be grown. In addition, predators, oxygen depletion and weather conditions are a hindrance and growing concern for bottom cultivation. Alternative production methods based on cultivation tables require a relatively large amount of manual labour in comparison; sometimes oysters have to be shucked up to 15 times a year for the purpose of obtaining a nice shape shell. In addition, cultivation tables also lead to tension in drying areas that are also home to many foraging migratory birds. Floating systems This is the reason why this project aims to develop a new cultivation method based on floating systems that allows sustainable cultivation of oysters in tidal environments, with the added advantage of minimising manual labour through (mechanical) automation. The basis of the proposed 'flip farm system' consists of several floating baskets in which the oysters are grown. The baskets are connected by a line. Several buoys and anchors (i.e. grid) keep the breeding baskets at the intended location and height in the water column (matched to optimal algae concentrations). A methodology will be developed to turn the baskets regularly (with minimal labour) for the purpose of obtaining an attractive oyster shape; this will investigate how to efficiently make use of tidal action. In the process, an innovative system will be developed to classify and sort oysters in a smart and automated manner during the process, both during cultivation and at harvest time. Summary In summary, the envisaged flip farm system consists of three components, which will be developed and demonstrated within this project: Floating system: The basis of the new breeding system will be a number of floating oyster baskets floating in the upper part of the water column (oyster gully). This is where most of the nutrition (naturally occurring algae) is located and therefore rapid growth occurs. In addition, the floating principle will allow for better control of the cultivation, i.e. less dependent on the state of the tide, as is the case with cultivation tables.Flip system: To obtain a nice shell shape (which has a lot of market value), the idea is to flip these floating systems with a flip system periodically and fully automatically. This will remove faeces and sharp parts from the shell. The starting point is to let this tilting process take place on a natural basis with the help of tide/current/wind.Sorting technology: Within this project, new technical sorting technology is being developed to achieve accurate and automated classification of oysters (in all breeding phases) in the breeding process, enabling efficient and smart sorting. Through a pilot in the Waterdunen nature reserve, the project participants J.P. Dhooge BV and HZ University of Applied Sciences aim to demonstrate that:- Impact on environment and nature of the new methodology is very low;- The system has potential to be further rolled out (in a modular way) in other tidal environments and could serve as a possible alternative to bottom cultivation;- High-quality oysters can be grown in a (cost-)efficient and automated way using this method. Double levee The system will thus offer the oyster sector opportunities to become more sustainable in economically interesting ways; fewer ship movements, less impact on the environment and nature and less manual labour required. In addition, the project partners see opportunities to link the production activity to multiple use of space and coastal protection technology or 'Double Levee' principle. The space between the two levees will have tides to which this production process can be tailored extremely efficiently. The limited nature impact of the farming process also allows for multiple space use in Natura-2000 areas based on this farming system. The intended flip-farm system thus enables the oyster sector to produce in a commercially interesting and sustainable way in harmony with nature, recreation and the coastal defence of the Netherlands. The findings will be announced after the end of the project, expected in December 2024, and will be published on the HZ University of Applied Sciences website, among others. Here, the results will remain findable for at least five years after the end of the project. Also, the findings of this project are available free of charge on request to all companies active in the sector or subsector concerned. The project was co-funded by Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Grant Scheme (SDVA).

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Working with waterscapes

The 'Working with Water Landscapes' initiative should start connecting the regional economy and the natural dynamics of large waters and surrounding areas. For biodiversity, it is important to consider land and water nature in conjunction. At the same time, those productive and diverse ecosystems add value to the people who live and work around large waters. Working with water landscapes gives entrepreneurs and (nature) site managers the chance to get their ideas and suggestions into handouts for public parties. The working method is different because economic (co-) use takes centre stage instead of public tasks (e.g. water storage, biodiversity or climate adaptation). According to the project group, this will increase support for working towards a shared future. How?Every year, the project organises boot camps to learn from each other. Participants learn how economic use and social innovation can be combined with the ideas from the Programme Approach to Large Waters on the design and management of those waters with which we aim for high-quality nature and biodiversity. For example, when it comes to levee relocation, repurposing silt-rich sediment and multifunctional use of space in the transition zone between land and water. ExperimentThe initiators want to take the space to experiment, for instance by creatively designing areas in consultation with local stakeholders, but also through field research into the reuse of sediment rich in silt-and by developing back banks more adaptively. One plan is to discuss and coordinate intermediate results already during implementation, so that potential revenue models come into view earlier. PartnersHZ University of Applied Sciences, Wageningen Environmental Research (coordinator), Deltares, Stichting EcoShape, Waterrecreation Netherlands, Sportvisserij Nederland, Zeeland Nature and Environment Federation, Wageningen Marine Research, NIOZ, Rijkswaterstaat, province of North Holland, province of Zeeland, Natuurmonumenten and Wereld Natuur Fonds are working together in the 'working with water landscapes' project. The project will last four years (2021-2025) and is made possible by a grant for Public-Private Partnership Initiatives (PPP) from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI).

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The world over, reefs, built by bio builders such as corals and shellfish, provide important ecosystem services including coastal safety, fisheries and recreation. However, these reefs are under increasing pressure, and the loss of natural hard substrates is also reducing the biodiversity and productivity of the marine ecosystem. At the same time, there is actually an increase in artificial hard substrate for marine infrastructure, such as dykes, harbours and breakwaters. Because of its good workability and wide applicability, the most commonly used material for marine infrastructure is concrete. However, concrete has major drawbacks such as high CO2 emissions and chemical composition; the creatures that grow on concrete are different from the ones living on natural reefs. PreservingIn this project, several partners from both architectural and ecological backgrounds are working on what alternative materials can be used to make marine infrastructure more sustainable while enriching underwater nature. To answer this question, alternative materials for concrete are produced and tested for conventional properties such as workability and strength. The most promising materials are tested in experimental lab research for the establishment of indicator species, after which the best-functioning materials are combined. Through experimental field research in the Wadden Sea, the Zeeland delta and near Saba (Dutch Caribbean), the development of ecological communities on the test blocks is investigated and a final selection is made. In this way, the ECODAMI project results in sustainable and ecologically optimal building materials that are directly applicable in marine infrastructure.


Nature package Westerschelde- Bath; Ossenisse & Zimmerman

In the Western Scheldt, current velocities have increased especially in recent years due to previous deepening and continuous dredging to maintain the channel for vessel traffic. In general, low-dynamic intertidal areas are richer in benthic life because here the current velocity is lower and the sediment more stable, which is important for the occurrence of various benthic animals. As part of the Nature Package Westerschelde (NPW), the Province of Zeeland has implemented a number of tidal nature restoration projects in the Western Scheldt with measures outside the levees. These measures mainly focus on expansion and quality improvement of low-dynamic nature by constructing breakwaters or modifying channels. This type of nature restoration is being implemented in five areas. Currently these are Baalhoek1, Knuitershoek1, Bath2, Ossenisse2 and Zimmerman3 (1 = subject of prior in-depth monitoring; 2 = measures realised; 3 = measures in progress). The objective of tidal nature restoration projects is to create low-dynamic sandy to moderately silt intertidal areas adjacent to a low-dynamic shallow water area. For these areas, the condition before construction of the breakwaters was characterised by increasingly hydrodynamically exposed peat banks and was therefore classified (wholly or largely) as a highly dynamic, ecologically poor area. The construction of breakwaters attempts to make the hydrodynamics lower energetic, causing silt and fine sand to sediment on and between the clay and peat banks. Assessing the effectiveness of outer levee measures for habitat quality proves difficult. This is mainly due to the lack of an overarching framework or broad vision with clear criteria on the optimal functioning of tidal nature. For instance, when are areas outside the levees high enough for benthos and birds to function optimally? Does this depend on the relative height compared to nearby tidal areas? Understanding these relationships between current, morphology and ecological functioning will also help optimise future interventions outside the levees. To evaluate the ecological effects of measures outside the levees, monitoring is important. The overarching research objective is to answer the question: Do current velocities and sedimentation processes in the project areas develop in such a way as to create valuable low-dynamic nature within the project areas?