Enhancing water security: A sustainable approach to drought and rainfall

Oct 20, 2023

The Vlaanderen WaterProof project, backed by a scientific study from VITO (Vlaamse instelling voor technologisch onderzoek), is exploring sustainable water management strategies in the Kempen region to combat the effects of climate change. The project focuses on better retention and reuse of rainwater, with sand extraction pits like the Donk pit in Dessel and the Rauw pit in Mol playing a crucial role as potential reservoirs and alternative water sources.

When it rains, a large part of the precipitation quickly enters our waterways and is lost to the sea via canals or sewers. The changing climate results in more frequent droughts interspersed with heavy rainfall events. This pattern puts a strain on our water system due to the insufficient replenishment of groundwater. It’s crucial that we alter our water management strategies, focusing more on retaining and reusing rainwater instead of letting it drain swiftly into the sea.

Research conducted by VITO suggests that sand extraction pits in the Kempen region could contribute to enhancing the area’s water security. The Vlaanderen WaterProof project is utilizing two such pits, namely the Donk pit in Dessel and the Rauw pit in Mol, to achieve this goal.

Water management and sustainable use at Donk Pond

For the Donk Pond (located near Tabloo on Gravenstraat in Dessel), VITO plans to build a controllable weir in 2024. This weir, located at the overflow point of the quarry, will allow the buffering of up to 150,000 m³ of water (equivalent to the annual water usage of over 2,000 households) for use during dry periods.

Additionally, the daily overflow rate of approximately 10,000 m³ (equivalent to the daily usage of more than 85,000 households) can serve as an alternative water source when not needed for supplying the Witte Nete. Starting in October 2023, Vlaanderen WaterProof will initiate a participatory process to explore who can benefit from this buffered water as a sustainable alternative water source.

Initially, businesses in the KMO-zone Stenehei and nearby agriculture will be considered. Another possibility is directing the overflow from the Donk Pond into the Witte Nete. By controlling the pond’s overflow, we can maintain the Witte Nete’s base flow and protect vulnerable aquatic species and plants within the watercourse.

Rauw pit: A potential source for sustainable drinking water production

Currently, a substantial volume of groundwater continuously flows from the Rauw Pit to the Dessel-Kwaadmechelen Canal. Water quality analyses indicate that the water in the Rauw Pit is of good quality and could potentially be used for drinking water production. To understand the necessary water purification steps, Pidpa and VITO are conducting pilot tests.

One advantage of using overflow water as a raw water source is that extracting this water has no significant impact on the environment. If the results are favorable, the next phase will explore whether this water can be used for drinking water production in the long term.

A key to sustainable groundwater use

Vlaanderen WaterProof aims to enhance water security during dry periods. However, water buffering should not be seen as a license to increase water consumption. Prudent water management remains the message for all users. The additional water buffer from the Climate Ponds can indeed serve as a sustainable alternative to the current use of groundwater.

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