“During my field work I learned how to deal with changes”

Matthijs Wessels: “I have just graduated from the International Land & Water Management Master's programme, which I highly appreciated. One of the advantages is the freedom of choice. Students are offered many opportunities to select courses of their own interest, besides the compulsory ones. For instance, I got into water quality issues, in addition to my Irrigation and Water Management Specialisation."

Although the academic level is challenging, we always keep an eye on the actual practice

“The International Land and Water Management Master’s programme was a logical choice for me after finishing my BSc. I particularly like the combination of technical and social aspects of water management. In my view, it’s no surprise that the programme has been highly regarded by students and experts for years. I appreciated the agreeable interaction between students and staff, as well as the emphasis on practical application of theoretic insights. Although the academic level is challenging, we always keep an eye on the actual practice, by doing field work, excursions and internships. In addition to my Irrigation and Water Management specialisation that largely focuses on water quantity, I got into water quality as well. In light of worldwide water scarcity, not only is the efficient use of water crucial, but also the quality of the water involved. That’s why I chose to follow courses on water quality and treatment.”

Wastewater irrigation
“In my thesis, I focused on a river in South Africa that is polluted by wastewater from a city. Downstream, farmers irrigate their fruit trees with this river water. I studied the impacts of water pollution on the fruit quality and farming strategies of commercial farmers. My study was based on the hypothesis that irrigation with polluted water doesn’t need to be harmful, but can actually be very useful when the appropriate methods are used. Besides different methods of water purification, changing irrigation systems as well as crop selection should be considered. If polluted water can safely be used for irrigation of farm land, this would offer interesting opportunities to solve water scarcity problems. Agriculture is still the greatest consumer of fresh water in the world, but cities are growing fast as well, so it is extremely important to make maximum use of urban wastewater!”

Valuable experiences
“During periods of field work which were embedded into the study programme, I gained many valuable experiences. One of the things I learned is that you need to be flexible in order to deal with unexpected situations and possible difficulties. Things always prove to be different than you would initially think! Everything turned out alright in the end, but I certainly faced some difficulties during my fieldwork period at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town. Since students were holding many protests at that time and the universities were forcibly shut down, we couldn’t work the way we had planned.”

Future career
“I would like to work as a project manager in consultancy teams for projects tackling water issues around the globe. A real asset of our study is that students gain knowledge of multiple disciplines and obtain skills to bridge the gap between disciplines to effectively solve problems. Since we often had to work together in teams, I learned to be a good team player and was able to work with various kinds of people. I find it very interesting to combine ideas and competences of different group members to achieve useful results. I consider working in project groups to be extremely valuable, as one will undoubtedly need the ability to work together with people of different disciplines and origins in future jobs.”

Currently, Matthijs is active as Advisor Water Management at ARCADIS Nederland and contributes by means of both project management and specialist inputs.