New intelligent water management system based on wireless sensor network and self-learning software

The Blankaart – Diksmuide – 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 water quantity. This internet of Water will enable Flanders to tackle the growing threat of water inconvenience, water scarcity and water pollution. Today Flanders’ Minister-President Geert Bourgeois has activated a first sensor, close to The Blankaart in Diksmuide.

Overview of water reserves

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 1,000 small, wireless low power water quality sensors (developed by 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.

Today, 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 visualize the data and make them available for the public.

Leveraging expertise in Flanders

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 & Vlakwa – have the ambition to turn Flanders into an international front runner in smart water management through the application of innovative digital technologies.

Permanent follow-up with self-learning software

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

Marcel Zevenbergen (imec): “After several years of intensive research, imec has succeeded to develop 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.”

Piet Seuntjens Innovation Manager at VITO, the Flemish independent research organization in the area of cleantech and sustainable development: “Innovative self-learning algorithms will process the large amounts of data from the sensors for the permanent and real-time monitoring of water quality and quantity, and also to feed the models that predict future evolutions. Through the VITO dashboards users will be connected directly to the “Water brain” for optimum use of available water.”

Permanent follow-up required

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 water treatment company Aquafin.

Also for water company De Watergroep this project is of big importance.“An efficient management of the surface water also guarantees the future water production of our various production centers, while a real-time control of the water quality can manage our production costs”, explains Hans Goossens, director-general of integral water company De Watergroep.

On our way to a solid water system

The fact that the Flemish government acknowledges the need for an innovative water management system shows its commitment to achieve a solid water system. “Applied research has a large excess value for the water system so this will serve water connected transport, industry, agriculture, living, nature, drinking water companies … Moreover this project emphasizes Flanders’ know-how and proves it to be of world-class. This knowledge can also be valorized internationally”, concludes Dirk Van der Stede, CEO of Flemish VITO’s Water Knowledge Centre (Vlakwa).

With the support of the Flemish government

Flanders’ Minister-President Geert Bourgeois: “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.”   

Carl Decaluwé, Governor of the Province West Flanders: “There is a need for accurate monitoring and real time visualization of information to support and objectify our decisions. This is what we missed during the drought crisis in 2017.”

Bart Naeyaert, Deputy of the Province West Flanders: “For a good management of the water system it is crucial that we can obtain as many possible and recent data about the quantity of water and the quality of that water in our water system. Working with sensors can strongly contribute to that. As president of Vlakwa I am very pleased with this initiative that will certainly develop further. From a neutral intermediate position, our aim is to search for solutions for the challenges of an integral water policy. The changing climate conditions enforce the importance of this.”

Contact

VITO
Piet Seuntjens
piet.seuntjens@vito.be | 0493 51 42 79 

imec
Hanne Degans
hanne.degans@imec.be | 0486 065 175