New Urban Water Transport Systems

For a country built on and around water, new urban water transport systems are an ongoing design challenge. To meet the high de-mands of urban life, resources must be recovered and integrated in the water system.

There will be 700.000 more inhabitants in the Randstad (i.e. The Netherlands’ megapolis and its surrounding areas including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) by 2030 according to the Central Office for Statistics (2016). The Randstad consumes significant amounts of essential resources such as energy, food and materials and water while producing waste. On the one hand, urban life promises a convenient, efficient, and safe way of life, but it is also organized in a linear fashion meaning take-make-waste rather than recover-recycle-reuse



Urban water infrastructure is handling three separate domains: drinking water, wastewater, and rainwater. Historically, there has been no integrated approach in design and management of those three domains. While current transport infrastructure of urban water is based on five criteria, i.e., water quality, water quantity, public health, safety, and comfort, ‘Resource recovery’ has not been included as a design parameter.

This leads to the following questions:

  • How does the transport infrastructure of urban water change if resource recovery was included design parameter?
  • How does an integrated approach with drinking water, wastewater, rainwater look like?
  • What does this imply for these cities where 80% of the water transport infrastructure is located on a neighborhood, a street and a house level?


The research project New Urban Water Transport Systems (NUWTS) is a collaboration of four water companies (Waternet, Evides, Brabant Water, WML), one water-board (De Dommel) and an internationally operating engineering agency (RoyalHaskoningDHV). The project is an opportunity for AMS Institute and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) to realize ambitions on a local and regional level in order to lead the way for national and international developments in this field.

The larger goal is to safeguard access to and recovery of limited yet essential resources in the urban environment. In the Netherlands, the transport infrastructure of urban water is a main area of research. In order to transition towards a circular society two conditions must be met - recovery of resources must be an equal design parameter and the transport infrastructure of urban water must be integrated.

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