Water quality and quantity

Our research aims to better understand the relationships between soil/water/plant/atmosphere and groundwater/surface water interactions. Wageningen Environmental Research is has many relevant tools and facilities, such as computational models and laboratories, to help us understand these processes. In our research programmes, we support policymakers and stakeholders at the regional, national, European, and global levels in the sustainable management of water resources and the related (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Water quality and quantity

In the Sustainable Water Management programme, we aim to improve our understanding of catchment-scale hydrological processes, diffuse pollution sources of nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants, and how the ecology responds to multiple stressors. To meet ecological targets for surface water, we also aim to understand the relationships between ecology and hydrological, morphological, and biological changes as well as the impact of climate change on ecology, water quantity, and water quality.

We make an important contribution to a sustainable living environment through our knowledge of and insights into processes in soil, water, and atmosphere.
Peter Schipper

The availability of water

The challenges of managing water resources sustainably and ensuring healthy surface bodies of water and groundwater resources are numerous. The European Water Framework Directive is a powerful instrument for meeting these challenges. Adaptation to climate change creates additional challenges: water management must align with other policy strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation in deltas and river basins in order to find robust, green, and integral solutions.

  • The deterioration of surface water (by pesticides, plastics, and foreign substances such as medicines): what is the impact on the water and how does the aquatic ecology respond to it?
  • Water quantity during droughts (climate change): to what extent is precipitation incorporated into the soil, how can water be retained, how do plants absorb the water, how can groundwater be supplemented, etc.
  • The ecology of nature-based solutions implemented to increase resistance to climate extremes such as heat, drought, and flooding in a sustainable way
  • Interactions with the top metre of soil with the atmosphere, crops, and soil (moisture and nutrient management), e.g. to support manure policy
  • Hydrology of the unsaturated zone, the water system begins in the soil and thorough knowledge of this is required to tackle the challenges we face.


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