Dreamville is living lab for studying water use

Water is precious, and we must use it carefully. VITO launched the research project WaterVille to gain more insight into our use of water. At DreamVille, home to 38 000 Tomorrowland festival visitors each year, smart sensors register the detailed consumption pattern, and researchers test which communications convince people, for example, to take shorter showers. In addition to local water savings of at least 20 %, the project aims to be an inspiring example for the tens of thousands of visitors, and for the events industry and the public water sector in general.

Since January 2016, VITO’s Water Management & Technology team (WMT) has been bringing together the expertise of water economists, environmental engineers and software specialists. In addition to ongoing water projects for industry and government, this new team emphasises the importance of water for all of society. The WaterVille project is a good example of this.

Optimal water management

“DreamVille can be seen as a temporary city, with water infrastructure that is rebuilt each year in the weeks before the festival. 38 000 people live at the site during the five festival days, all of whom take a shower, use the toilet …There’s even a laundromat! With WaterVille, our aim is to gather as much data as possible from the festival visitors on water use,” says Wim Schiettecatte. “We use smart water meters to closely monitor the consumption pattern. This gives us greater insight into the behaviour of a large group of people, something  that is not yet possible in a typical urban environment since water meters are read only once a year. The new data will allow us among other things to more accurately dimension a water network and better match supply with demand.” Via an SME study in 2015, VITO researchers already started the daily reading of a number of local flowmeters at DreamVille. At the start of WaterVille, in the summer of 2016, water use was already being measured in many more places, and new measurements were available every 10 minutes via the Sigfox data network. Wim Schiettecatte: “In July 2017, it will be possible to read live data and link it to the number of visitors of a shower area. They are already being registered using wristbands. This allows a more personalised approach to water use and thus opens up a new world for optimal water management.”

Nudging collective behaviour

Hence, a second part of WaterVille includes a study of the behaviour of DreamVille visitors. WMT, supported by the VITO Transition Platform, wishes to use these results in a comprehensive study of transition thinking and waterwise societies. “The crucial question is: how to make water conservation a natural choice for people?” says sociologist Yves De Weerdt. “Combining technology with knowledge about behaviour creates new possibilities. Behaviour depends on many factors: age, gender, individual needs, the example of friends, the collective feeling of a festival, the weather … Your communication also needs to be adapted to these: should you communicate concisely about water consumption or for example make use of a simulation game?” For WaterVille, VITO is working closely with the team of Love Tomorrow, Tomorrowland’s sustainability platform. They know their audience and are able to properly assess the feasibility of outof- the-box ideas. Yves De Weerdt: “The challenge lies in choosing sustainability while ensuring the comfort of visitors. Currently the WaterVille partners are developing a sanitary unit that is able to communicate creatively with the user about his or her use of water. Using informative displays and mood lighting, we examine what happens when visitors can compare their personal water use to that of the entire group. But the aim remains making saving water the logical and obvious option, not a mandatory process. We need to abandon the idea that sustainability always means a loss of comfort.”

Smart cities

The WaterVille project covers multiple editions of Tomorrowland. 2016 is the baseline against which the water consumption of the following editions will be compared. Wim Schiettecatte: “In 2017, based on the initial data, we will be trying out various behavioural measures and technological innovations for the sanitary units. We are aiming for maximum water savings in 2018. The multidisciplinary approach at WaterVille is resulting in new insights that we want to apply within the broader research into smart cities. We are also striving to maximise valorisation of the project’s results among all the participating project partners, each with their specific target audience and product range. And to ensure the optimum exchange of ideas and knowledge, we are planning an annual transition workshop with the events sector, water companies and the government. The translation of results from a multicultural festival environment to an urban context must take place critically and in dialogue with all stakeholders.” WaterVille is co-financed by the Environmental and Energy Technology Innovation Platform (MIP). VITO is working on the project together with Love Tomorrow (Tomorrowland’s sustainability platform), Hydroko (smart meters), Forwrd (data communication and processing), Pidpa (water company), MTD (water infrastructure) and Van Overbeek (sanitary units).

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