The daily impact of droughts and floods is being felt by industry, companies, farmers and citizens around the world. Extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, the failure of climate mitigation and adaptation, water crises and large-scale involuntary migration are some of the most likely and high-impact current risks. Through innovations and strategic interventions, Wageningen researchers are increasing the economic, social and environmental value of water for our partners.

Water management

Climate change and water management

Global warming may have major consequences, some of which are difficult to predict. We are likely to see more extreme weather in the future, while more than half of the population lives in areas that are vulnerable to climate change. This impact is observed in rising sea levels, and more and heavier storms. This is partly because sea water expands as it heats up. The sea level is also rising because the ice caps are melting and - to a lesser extent - because mountain glaciers are receding. Climate change also has enormous consequences for islands and countries with long, with long coastlines at current sea levels that do not have the means to adapt to changing conditions.

Wageningen University & Research often uses nature as a source of inspiration for solutions to climate change and water issues. Our expertise in the field of nature-based solutions, such as the construction of oyster reefs as protection against waves and the greening of cities for better water drainage, contributes to sustainable water management at a global level.

Flooding and drought

Due to climate change, extreme weather conditions are becoming more frequent and more severe, hence we have to adapt to events resulting in both excess as well as shortage of water.

Climate change is not only raising global temperatures, but is also changing precipitation patterns. In the Netherlands, flooding is occurring more often due to heavy rain showers. Urban areas are experiencing flooded streets more often and this causes a significant disturbance. Wageningen University & Research is studying the causes of heavy rainfall and is looking for solutions to deal with this phenomenon. Increasing the levels of ‘ green environment’  in the city can help. Compared to hard and firm surfaces, trees, plants, parks and natural gardens provide an increased storage and retention of water. In this way, storm water discharge is spread over a longer timespan, resulting in fewer floods. As the water is stored in the soil, it is available for future use, for instance in periods of drought.

Drought has major consequences for agriculture and nature. Therefore, the development of crops with better drought resistance is an important research topic for Wageningen University & Research. We conduct research into the impact that this has on seasons, plant and animal life, wildfires and desertification. Wageningen University & Research is working on solutions together with parties from all over the world.

Dykes and flood defences

Since a large part of the Netherlands is below sea level, safe dykes are hugely important. In the future, this importance will only increase as a result of climate change, rising sea levels, increasing storms and ongoing soil subsidence. The strength of a dyke depends, among other things, on the erosion resistance of the outer and inner slope. Wageningen University & Research has more than 25 years of experience with research and advice on the erosion resistance of dyke grasslands.

Rivers, flows and sediment

The experimental research of the Laboratory for Water and Sediment Dynamics mainly focuses on morphological responses to channel and overland flow. Current research topics are in the fields of stream restoration, channel erosion and side channels created by longitudinal dams. The laboratory offers test setups and simulations for river flow, precipitation and river dams. For questions about the facilities and planning, please contact us.

IJsselmeer and Markermeer

Wageningen University & Research is conducting research into the IJsselmeer region, including the ecological capacity, fishery developments and how water and nature management can respond to long-term social tasks. Striking examples are the construction of the Marker Wadden and the Vismigratierivier (fish migration river) at the Afsluitdijk.

Water quality

Good quality of water is important

A trusted quality of water is important for many reasons, such as for public health, agriculture and food, biodiversity, tourism and recreation. Wageningen University & Research has a good understanding of causes, strains, stress factors and the interactions between them which result in the ecological deterioration of water quality; of the costs of adaptation and mitigation; and of the effectiveness and socio-economic implications of proposed solutions and regulations. Our researchers combine these in an integrated ecosystem approach that includes hydrology, morphology, physical chemistry and biology.

Freshwater ecosystems

Understanding how aquatic systems respond to climate change is an important priority in freshwater research. It is also an extremely important topic for the fields of management and policy, particularly in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, the VHR / Natura 2000 targets, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and other national and international conventions and protocols. The protection, management and redesign of aquatic water and semi-aquatic wetland ecosystems depend on this knowledge, not only in regard to climate change, but also in regard to changes in land use, environmental impact and increasing water demands.

Water treatment

Sustainable water purification, solving water scarcity and using alternative water sources without affecting the quality of water. These are important challenges for sectors such as the food industry, agriculture and horticulture. Wageningen University & Research helps companies to close nutrient cycles and water cycles.

Water and food

Water for food production

Wageningen University & Research provides innovations and strategies to improve water and food security and environmental stability in the context of climate change. Wageningen University & Research offers solutions and research in the area of smart water management, water and nutrient-efficient agricultural systems, optimisation of water resources, land use and ecosystems, assessment of risks to water and food safety, and political stability.

Food from the sea

Wageningen University & Research also studies how we can use large water areas to produce food (human) and feed (livestock). 70% of the earth is covered with water. Currently, only 2 percent of our food comes from fishing and aquaculture. Wageningen University & Research wants to use the potential for food and animal feed production, yet maintain the quality and ecosystem functions of these large freshwater and saltwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers, seas and oceans.

Seas and oceans

Sustainable management of coast & sea

The ecology and use of our seas and oceans are under pressure due to global challenges in food security, energy production, population growth and the search for minerals. What are the risks and opportunities for this “Blue Growth”?

On the one hand, the marine environment can provide much-needed space and resources for aquaculture, floating food, biomass production, fishing, renewable energy (wave, solar and wind) and other forms of spatial use, such as harbours and airports. On the other hand, the quality of seawater and the marine ecosystem is seriously threatened by the accumulation of man-made concentrations of plastic, waste and nutrients.

Wageningen University & Research generates and gathers knowledge and provides advice to energy operators, food producers, governments, nature conservation organisations and other users, with the aim of ensuring the sustainable management and use of marine and coastal areas.