Hydropower is essential to fulfill future energy demands. Water scarcity is likely to increase due to climate change and aase in water demand. Therefore, Climate Risk Assessments are required before large investments in new and large hydropower stations (>100 MW) are made. Small hydropower (1 – 20 MW) does not require these Climate Risk Assessments yet, but this will eventually happen in the future. Investors are highly interested in the profitability of these small hydropower stations, especially because of the uncertainty caused by future climate change. Current methods for Climate Risk Assessments (CRA) are however still too costly for these small-hydro projects because they are very labor intensive and require specific knowledge.

FutureWater has carried out a feasibility study to assess the possibilities for the development of a “Small-Hydro Climate Risk Assessment tool” (SH-CRA) that can make CRA’s for small-hydro projects cost effective. The starting point of this project to develop the SH-CRA is the recent change in the approach to CRA’s: until a few years ago, these were based purely on climate models, also known as the “Top-down” approach. Nowadays however, investors require a more pragmatic approach in which climate risks are balanced against other risks and presented in a clear way. This new “Bottom-up” approach makes it possible for small-hydro projects to include climate risks in the investment decision.

This feasibility project has therefore investigated whether the “bottom-up” climate risk analysis approach can make it possible to develop such a SH-CRA solution, based on a combination of literature research, an inventory of available technology and potential partners, and competition analysis.

A large Dutch consortium has joined in the project “Dutch network on small spaceborne radar instruments and applications (NL-RIA)”, led by TU Delft. The objective is to bundle the radar-related knowhow available in The Netherlands, and fill the knowledge gaps, in order to boost SmallSat radar-based Earth Observation technology. The focus of the project is on microwave remote sensing.

A key advantage of microwave remote sensing compared to optimal imagery is the all-weather/day and night observation capability, which greatly enhances the observation opportunities. This includes the ability to observe through clouds. Microwave remote sensing system include passive (radiometers) and active ones (radar altimeters, Synthetic Aperture Radars, precipitation radars, scatterometers, etc). This study will focus on altimeters and thus on active radar.

Continuous monitoring of fresh water bodies like rivers, lakes and artificial reservoirs, is important for water resources management, and thus for the principal water users in river basins, such as domestic, industrial and irrigation demands. Also, potentially there can be applications of this information for flood early warning, renewable energy (hydropower) and for the transport sector (shipping).

For the management of fresh water resources at the basin level, information on the status of surface water bodies is critical. In many areas in the world however, this information is scarce. Especially in developing countries, water level measurements of lakes and reservoirs are hardly available. In Europe, ground-based measurements are more common but sometimes performed by the entity operating the reservoir or river abstraction, and thus not available to water resources managers for the purpose of water resources planning. Also in transboundary (international) river basins, ground-based information is often not shared, so satellite-based information can be of high value for certain end-users (Zhang et al., 2014).

Altimeter measurements of rivers, lakes and artificial reservoirs and be used for two purposes:

  • Strategic planning of water resources, which requires water resources assessments to support for example river basin management plans
  • Operational management of water resources, for example for the hour-by-hour operational management of water release from reservoirs for hydropower.

The study performed by FutureWater focused on the first type of applications: strategic planning and decision making on the long-term. Especially for this purpose, satellite-based altimeter data has the potential to fill an important information gap. For the second type of applications: operational water management and short-term decision making, typically ground-level water level sensors are more cost-effective than satellite-based solutions.

Key results

From the analysis performed by FutureWater and based on literature review, the following key considerations are proposed for shaping a low-cost altimetry mission useful for assessing inland water bodies and water resources planning:

  • Altimetry information can be extremely useful for complex systems as for example swamps, where data on surface water levels and flows are scarce, as often the case in developing countries. Altimetry data can support the management and conservation of these systems that provide key ecosystem services for people and the environment.
  • To build hydrological models for water resources assessments, historic data is required to calibrate and validate the tools. To capture the variability in water resources systems and thus perform a successful validation, a period of around 10 years of altimetry data is recommendable.
  • A revisit frequency of 1 month is typically sufficient for water resources assessments. Higher frequencies are normally not necessary as they may only lead to minor improvements in the performance of the modeling tools. Lower frequencies (e.g. two months) are not sufficient to capture the seasonal pattern adequately.
  • The required accuracy is highly dependent on the characteristics of the water body and is a function principally of the annual dynamics in storage, and the depth-storage relationship. In case study I, with a very large but shallow water body, an accuracy of approx. 10 cm was considered necessary. For case study II, with a smaller and deeper water body, it was found that up to an error of 180 cm the performance of the model was not significantly affected.
  • The accuracy requirement can possibly also be expressed as a percentage of the annual variability in water levels, of a particular water body of interest. For example:
    • In case study I, annual increases of approximately 1 m are common. The accuracy requirement is approximately 10% of this (10 cm)
    • In case study II, water level increases or decreases within a year of around 15 m are possible. Also here, the accuracy requirement is in the order of 10-15% of this annual variability.
  • Finally it has to be noted, that the usefulness of the altimetry data is also dependent on the availability and quality of other datasets necessary for the hydrological modeling. These datasets are primarily the depth-volume relationship, ideally from in-situ measurements but possibly extracted from satellite data (Duan and Bastiaanssen, 2013b); as well as discharge data upstream or downstream of the water body. Without these data sources it is not possible to establish a reliable water balance of the water body.

The development of high-end electrical sensors has taken a boost over the last few years, and staying up-to-date is therefore a must. Within the east of the Netherlands, several SMEs and knowledge institutes luckily have a strong position in the development, production, and commercializing of sensor systems, their components, and required technologies. The Management Authority OP Oost from the province of Gelderland provides financial support to bring the development and commercialization of innovative sensor systems from TRL4/5 to TRL6/7.

Difference between high-resolution AESA radar (left) and KNMI radar (right).

Within the first DAISY project the TRL4/5 of the DAISY concept was demonstrated. We demonstrated that this compact and mobile sensor system has the potential for several socio-economic applications, being security, transport and logistics, life-sciences, and agro-food. DAISY 2 builds on the success of the first DAISY project, and aims to further develop this sensor system and explore the viability of this sensor product for different markets.

The DAISY 2 consortium is led by Thales Nederland B.V., and consists of the following consortium members: NXP, TNO, Sencio, Salland Engineering, Sintecs, Noldus, VDM Kunststoftechniek, Etchform, FutureWater, and the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group (HWM) of Wageningen University. During this 3-year project we aim to bring the development and commercialization of this sensor product to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6/7. Within this project FutureWater will work closely together with the HWM group of Wageningen University to further develop and explore the viability of this AESA sensor for the meteo-hydrological forecasting and water-for-food market.

Presentation of the DAISY concept (left) to Mr. Kamp, Minister of Economic Affairs (right).

Climate change will likely influence the concentrations and loads of contaminants in and towards ground- and surface waters. To have a better understanding on the effects of climate change on contaminants in the hydrological system, a consortium was formed a few years ago, consisting of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Utrecht University, VITO (Belgium), and ALTERRA. The project was entitled as “Climate Cascades”, which represents interrelated processes that occur as a result of climate change, and the influences of these processes that are exerted on man and ecosystems.

In the project “Climate Cascades”, Utrecht University adopted the task to develop a “River Basin Model” aiming at simulating the climate change-induced changes in catchment-scale heavy metal and pathogen concentrations and loads. The “River Basin Model” has been developed by implementing and applying a conceptual lumped hydrological model, called WALRUS (Wageningen Lowland Runoff Simulator), in a semi-distributed way. For the implementation and application of the model the catchment of the Dommel River (i.e. located in the border region of the Netherlands and Belgium) was selected as study area. Subsequently, a metal transport module was coupled with the hydrological model in order to simulate Cd and Zn concentrations and loads in ground- and surface water. Following the coupling between the hydrological model and the metal transport module, a pathogen transport model was coupled with the hydrological model in order to simulate the transport of Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium from land surface and sewage to surface waters.

The outcomes of the studies as mentioned above were and are reported by means of scientific publications. The aim of this project is to finish two papers that were initiated at the Utrecht University. The first paper focussing on the effects of climate change on metal transport has already been submitted and is currently in review. The second paper focussing on the effects of climate change on pathogen transport is in development and has to be submitted. The main aim of this project is to finish these papers and to guide them to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Several large wildfires have taken place in The Netherlands in recent years. Although the affected surface area is small in comparison to other countries, the societal risk is substantial due to the intensive use of natural areas for recreation, tourism, timber production, military practice, etc. In addition, high-risk vegetation is often located adjacent to highways, railway tracks, installations for drinking water supply and built-up area. The “Natuurbrandverspreidingsmodel” (NBVM) of the IFV plays an important role in mitigating wildfires. The model predicts the expansion of a wildfire through time and is used for risk analysis in a preliminary phase, as well as for decision support during the occurrence of a fire.

Despite the fact that the NBVM strongly depends on spatial information, currently only a topographical map is used as input in addition to weather predictions at the point scale. The project “Using satellite data for wildfire mitigation” will yield a product that achieves a significant improvement in the spatial representation of environmental factors relevant to the NBVM. The Wildfire component of the SVIPE product (Satellite-based Vegetation Information PackagE) will contain dynamic map layers that can be used as model input. Generic, up-to-date map layers of a large number of important parameters in the process of wildfire expansion will come available for all national parks in The Netherlands. Based on this information, it is foreseen that the performance of the NBVM will improve, both in terms of general risk analysis as well as simulating wildfire expansion. When both firefighters and managers of nature areas make use of this product, this will enhance cooperation in mitigating risks and mutual action at the time of fire hazards.

After a successful first phase, in which the technical and financial feasibility of SVIPE-W has been established, a second phase has now started in order to develop a full prototype. In this phase, the methodology will be fully automated and standardized, and by means of a fieldwork component the algorithms will be trained and validated in more detail. The end result of this project is a product that provides monthly spatially distributed information on fuel type, vegetation density, and moisture content in nature areas.

There are strong indications that the risk of infection in humans with Q fever depends on physical environmental factors such as warm weather with dry soils and a certain wind. Wind with enough speed and the right direction can bring out dust particles in the air that bacteria capture. These can then be inhaled by humans and animals in the surrounding area. It is believed that aerosols can move several kilometers by wind in dry, dusty conditions. Q fever outbreaks in humans took place in the Netherlands in 2007, 2008 and 2009, increasing in size.

The magnitude of the outbreaks in the Netherlands indicates that the transmission occurs through large scale pollution or by the existence of multiple contaminated point sources, and not so much by direct (professional) contact with animals or for example consumption of contaminated unpasteurized milk. So far, conclusive evidence is lacking to what factors influence the risk of infection the most. In some infected farms little or no infection is detected in humans while other sources have passed over to humans; regardless the size of the farm.

All this raises the question of whether physical environmental factors in certain areas of infection were more conducive for transmission than elsewhere. In this study, the influence of these factors, soil type and, in particular, usage and humidity are examined, taking into account the population density, company size, production methods and weather conditions.

SWIMM will allow us to make spatial explicit statements on the hydrological conditions of an area, while taking the current climate and climate change into account. SWIMM combines data from ground-based monitoring, remote sensing data, output of model studies (including SPHY by FutureWater and PROBE by KWR) and valuable site-specific knowledge from local managers and other experts. Comparison of the current hydrological state with the desired state can result in fine tuning of the water management.

The joint analysis and presentation of the integral results will encourage local and regional managers and surveyors to continue to perform their monitoring and management tasks. Especially so because the results and data will be published on a user-friendly website, where they can also share their own observations and stay up to date on the progress of their colleagues. The smartphone app will support this. Smartphones bring the advantage that these devices know where they are (GPS-coordinates), are very portable, and allow for feedback (two-way communication).

The exact functionality of the smartphone app (iPhone) will be determined in consultation with all project partners. At least however, the app can display spatial data of its current location, as well as time series analysis of that location by accessing the phones GPS receiver. Furthermore, the app will support a feedback component with which the user can report his or her findings. The app will be made compatible with already existing tools, such as the Water Atlas of the Province of Noord-Brabant.

Examples of screenshots from iPhone App to be developed.
Examples of screenshots from iPhone App to be developed.

The SWIMM project aims to promote cooperation between policy, implementation and monitoring. The initial three pilot areas are the Kampina, Groote Peel and Brabantse Wal nature reserves. However, the project is designed with scale-up in mind and a generally applicable approach is taken. Many countries are faced with scarcity of geographical data, leaving space borne remote sensing the sole information source for environmental and hydrological analysis. Because SWIMM explicitly incorporates remote sensing data, a high potential for export of SWIMM principles is foreseen.

Developments within the area of electronic sensor systems follow up at high speed. Staying up to date is of great importance. Several business companies in the eastern part of The Netherlands have a strong position in developing, producing, and selling of sensor systems, components and technology. These companies are innovators and know how to bring new sensor products and its applications to the common market.

Thales Group and NXP Semiconductors have set up a project with several small business corporations as partners across the eastern region of The Netherlands. This project aims at the development of a new sensor system, to be built within three years from now, by the end of 2014. This process is run parallel to the exploration of new applications in the field of agribusiness, food business, and the environment, given the new sensor system. In this way, the project combines development with applications at the same time. It is a challenge to all partners involved, which is financially supported by the Gelderland and Overijssel provinces.

FutureWater will in strong cooperation with the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group (HWM) of Wageningen University, work on applications of new sensor data on evaporation, soil moisture, and drought conditions. Also, we will work on applications in general on operational water management and regional-scale irrigation and drainage practices, within and outside The Netherlands.

 

In May 2011, FutureWater and partners won the project, initiated by AgentschapNL, part of the Ministry of Public Works & Environment, to study and develop a climate adaptive drainage system (SBIR contract 11308).

The concept of Climate Adaptive Drainage is such that regional-scale water managers and local-scale farmers co-operate on the drainage system, in order to use the farm-scale soil system as an optimal water storage system. Climate change in The Netherlands will lead to increased rainfall and more extreme rainfall events on one hand, and more pronounced and longer periods with dry weather conditions on the other hand. By using the local-scale soil as a water storage reservoir during rainfall events, current peak discharges can be decreased in a way that downstream problems on water management can be solved. When drought situations occur, pre-event rainfall can be stored instead of discharged using conventional drainage systems.

Technically, the Climate Adaptive Drainage system consists of a series of conventional subsurface drains at typical depth of 1.2m below soil surface and at a drain spacing of 6m, which are interconnected by a collector drain. This collector drain ends up in a drainage pit with an outlet. This drainage pit has equipment installed inside to remote and continuously manage the drainage basis, before drainage water is discharged to the surface water by the outlet. During the study and development phase of the project, three prototypes have been installed at 3-5 ha farm sites across The Netherlands. The operation is monitored and evaluated, in order to obtain an optimized drainage and control system. Besides technical aspects, legal and management aspects will be studied, as well as a cost and benefit analysis will be carried out. The project is carried out in strong cooperation with three farmers and water boards Hunze en Aa’s, Regge en Dinkel, and Brabantse Delta.

Climate Adaptive Drainage is flexible and can be applied under climate change conditions. The project will generate a power tool for both water managers and farmers, able to cope better with extreme weather conditions, as compared to using conventional drainage systems. As a result, a more sustainable and reliable adaptive water management will be supported by using our drainage system. The consortium run by FutureWater will meet the project objectives as well as possible. By the end of 2012, we will try and enable commercial use of the Climate Adaptive Drainage system.

More details and further background information on the project can be found at the project website: KAD website [in dutch]

Results from the FutureView model imply a low effectiveness for water retention in the study area. Without seepage the extra amount of water to be stored is 7 to 15 mm. The criteria as set by the Water Board indicate this as “low suitability” for water retention.