- There is a lot of drought and flooding, which calls for a joint approach
- Werkplaats Water en Klimaat is looking for joint initiatives and innovative solutions.
And that is what they are doing in “Werkplaats Water en Klimaat” (Workplace for Water and Climate). The workplace was founded in 2019. It is one of the themes within the Pioneering Foundation; a platform where education, research, entrepreneurs, and the government work together to renew the built environment. Werkplaats Water en Klimaat is specifically intended to stimulate, develop and realise new solutions for drought, flooding and heat stress. Stefan Nijwening, who works at Waterschap Vechtstromen, and Wouter Stadhouders, owner of StadLandWater management and advice, are both active in the workplace; Stefan as a manager and Wouter as participating entrepreneur.
Stefan: “A place like this is desperately needed. Drought and flooding require a joint approach; everyone for themselves will not do. That would inevitably result in the so-called ‘tragedy of the commons’: individual actions by individual parties will harm the group as a whole. In other words: residents, farmers, businesses, housing corporations, developers, contractors, provinces, municipalities, water boards… we all need to do our bit. We try to come up with a joint initiative and innovative solution in the workplace, by using prompting boards, for example. These boards show how measures in the garden, on the street, in the neighbourhood, village and city, but also in the outlying area, can contribute to a more water-robust and climate-proof design. The goal is to come up with concrete initiatives and projects that are truly innovative.”
One of those customised solutions is a turning weir, one of Wouter’s ideas. “Drought is a real problem in Twente, with our high sandy soils. Farmers, in particular, suffer because of it. They manage many streams along their plots, so the solution had to be something that the farmers could use themselves. That is why we looked at the functional requirements for the solution first, in the workplace, which can retain rainwater longer to maintain the groundwater level. This can be done using the turning weir. Farmers simply place the weir in the middle of a stream to prevent the water from draining too quickly, so that the groundwater remains at the same level, even when it gets drier. That’s the idea.” Farmer Jozef ten Heggeler is currently trying out the weir.
The turning weir is just one example of what constructive cooperation can lead to. More issues will be brought to the table in the workplace, and they will all call for different approaches, creative solutions and a new form of cooperation. Stefan Nijwening and Wouter Stadhouders will, on request and with the experience that they have to date, try four success factors for a good collaboration.
1. Involving the entire chain.
Looking at an issue from different angles gives you ideas that are much stronger than if someone were to look at it independently. Therefore, it is preferable to bring all those directly involved, the entire chain, together in one room. Stefan: “We want to do this with the eco-pan, for example; an invention of an employee from the Domijn housing corporation. It is a green, water-storing roof tile, tried and tested, but unfortunately never taken into production. We are talking to parties that would like to be involved and can invest in it to make that possible now, and to ensure that we know what is needed to get these eco-pans on our roofs.”
2. Do not be afraid of taking actions without immediate returns
You need to earn money to survive as an entrepreneur. Therefore, it is not strange that people are not always eager to think about issues voluntarily, without a commission as a result. Wouter, who is an entrepreneur himself, understands this like no other. “You should not be afraid to invest as a company, indeed. On the other hand, such think tanks also help you with developing your company. You expand your network and are inspired by others. And with a bit of luck, you might even be the one to receive the commission.”
3. Move away from the beaten track
Stefan: “We often get stuck in our usual way of doing things. If a waterway has to be dredged, we prefer describing how the dredger should do it. But we could also say: ‘Make sure that this canal remains navigable for the next ten years’, and let the dredger come up with the best way of doing that.” Wouter adds: “You no longer work out the solution for yourself, or ask who can do it cheapest. That approach is ‘killing’ for climate issues. Another advice: Do not work with the same set of permanent partners only. New people from other sectors often surprise you with a refreshing view.”
4. Celebrate successes, advertise.
Twente has more than enough development and implementation power, with all our companies, knowledge, and research institutions. Stefan: “One of the largest urban water storage areas in Europe is located in Twente, between Enschede and Hengelo. Very few people know that.” Wouter concludes: “We just don’t advertise about ourselves enough in Twente.” Stefan also recognises this. “I started living in Twente not too long ago, but I am very proud of what’s happening here and of what we do and make together. I think we should advertise that a bit more.”
Werkplaats Water & Klimaat combines practical experience, knowledge and innovation so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel all by yourself. This is important because climate change is the cause of complex challenges for the Netherlands. An increasing amount of rain, long periods of drought and heat and the consequences of floods: it affects many public and private parties and sectors. No one can solve it on their own. Working together effectively, sharing knowledge and local customised solutions are crucial. Werkplaats Water & Klimaat is a great place in Twente where municipalities, other governments, housing corporations, project developers, contractors, architects, project leaders, managers, scientists and students work together on new techniques, measures and solutions that we can implement immediately.