Urban Water

The Urban Water theme focuses on the urban water cycle. This not only concerns water extraction, the production of drinking and process water and the collection and treatment of waste water, but also the capture and discharge of precipitation and the combating of brackish water seepage. Both education and research centre on an integral approach and cross-faculty work is the norm.

Tackling priority substances in drinking water sources.

A good example of the integral approach is the tackling of priority substances – diseases, hormones and medicine residues – in drinking water sources. Within the theme we carry out research into new purification techniques and combinations of existing techniques which allow these substances to be removed. Simultaneously, we wish to prevent these substances entering the water supply.

Reusing waste water

The subject of the reuse of water and waste is becoming increasingly important within the theme. For example, we carry out research into the separate collection and purification of urine. A concentrated waste flow is much easier to treat and useful substances such as phosphates and nitrogen, which occur in high concentrations in urine, can be removed and reused, e.g. to manufacture fertilisers.

Brackish water seepage

Take, for example, the Harnaschpolder [area of reclaimed land]. This polder is home to many market gardening companies that use rain and groundwater to irrigate their crops. Groundwater pumping is leading to an increase in brackish water seepage in the area. We are studying whether effluent from the local water treatment plant, which is currently discharged into the sea, could – after processing – be used as irrigation water. The advantage being a reduction in groundwater usage which would lead to a decrease in brackish water seepage. Furthermore, nutrients in the effluent could be reused to fertilise the crops in the glasshouses.

Practical problems

The education provided also approaches the urban water cycle in an integral manner. For example, until recently, the subject of Drinking water treatment only examined drinking water systems. Nowadays, our students can choose subjects chain wide and design both drinking water and waste water treatment facilities. Furthermore, education is provided on the basis of practical problems as much as possible. Problems that often demand an integral approach.

Prof. ir. Jules van Lier

Theme leader and professor of Waste Water Treatment.

Further information

Further information on research

Further information on education

Further information on cooperation

Decentralised sanitation
Together with consultancy and engineering firm MWH, TU Delft is currently conducting research into decentralised sanitation. Among other things, this examines the separation of 'grey' and 'black' water in homes and the effect this has on waste water transport and treatment systems. The idea is that concetrated waste (water) flows make it easier to efficiently extract raw materials. For example, 'black' water can be utilised by neighbourhoods to create biogas, while 'grey' waste water can perhaps be locally infiltrated after a few simple treatment steps.  

Removing arsenic underground 
Groundwater in Bangladesh contains high levels of carcinogenic arsenic. TU Delft is studying whether subterranean arsenic removal could provide a solution. The technique being tested is very simple. Oxygen-rich water is pumped into the soil through a drinking water well. This ensures that the iron present in the soil oxidises and creates a layer of rust around the soil particles. When water is subsequently pumped up, the rust not only absorbs the free iron in the groundwater, but also the arsenic. 

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