Sustainable Water Systems

Clean fresh water

Our lives depend on having sufficient, clean fresh water. But we can’t just assume its availability. More intensive agriculture, population growth and increased prosperity are all leading to greater demand for fresh water. Meanwhile, groundwater and surface water sources are being affected by pollution in the form of nutrients, crop protection agents, medicines and other micro-pollutants. Climate change is also altering patterns of evaporation and precipitation. The applied research group on Sustainable Water Systems explores these tensions. Through applied research, our objective is to safeguard access to sufficient clean fresh water for human consumption, nature, agriculture, recreation and industry. In partnership with VHL study programmes, the Centre of Expertise Water Technology (CEW), government agencies and public bodies, the private sector and industry associations, we’re developing applied knowledge, concepts and tools aimed at:

  • reducing the pollution of ground and surface water sources
  • increasing the capacity of local environments to purify and capture water
  • closing water and nutrient cycles
  • innovative monitoring

The research is transdisciplinary: core disciplines (water technology, eco-hydrology, toxicology and environmental economics etc) are being located within a general, societal context.


  • Climate-adaptive business parks
    Participative research is being conducted at a number of business parks in Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe to assess the situation in terms of climate risks, biodiversity and economic vitality. These assessments will identify any opportunities and potential problems with regards to collaborative efforts and the introduction of policy measures.
  • Better Wetter
    The Better Wetter partnership is researching new forms of water management, based on waterlogging and fluctuating water levels. The project is developing technically and socio-economically viable concepts for sustainable agriculture and land use.
  • Public participation in climate adaptation
    The effects of climate change mean that urban areas increasingly experience heat, drought and precipitation in excess of normal or acceptable levels. It’s up to municipal authorities and water boards to ensure that these areas are designed to be climate resilient. As part of this project, professionals and local residents are working together to take measurements (participatory monitoring), collect data on physical and social vulnerabilities, and come up with measures to address them.
  • Zero emission cleaning site
  • Circular water in the neighbourhood
  • Climate-resilient water management in the sandy soils of East Friesland
  • Future-proof water management in Terschelling


Everything published by the Sustainable Water Systems applied research group can be found on Greeni, the online library for the green universities of applied sciences.

About the professor

Professor Peter van der Maas was trained as an environmental technologist at the Van Hall Institute and Wageningen University. He received his PhD on innovative technologies for capturing nitrogen. Throughout his career as a technologist, researcher and consultant, Peter has worked on many aspects of water treatment and water quality. He was appointed professor of Sustainable Water Systems at VHL in September 2017. He also works as a strategic advisor on water technology at WLN. Peter works with lecturers and students within the applied research group to conduct research that can help address the societal challenge of ensuring sufficient access to clean water for people, agriculture, industry and the natural environment, both now and in the future.

Knowledge network

Aside from the professor, the knowledge network is made up of a core group of lecturers, researchers and other professors.

Members of the knowledge network

  • Dr. Peter van der Maas  - Water Quality and Water Purification
  • Mr. Jasper van Belle - Eco-hydrology
  • Dr. Marije Strikwold - Toxicology
  • Mr. Xantho Klijnsma - Energy and Climate
  • Dr. Bob Laarhoven (CEW) - Environmental Technology and Aquatic Biology
  • Mr. Leo Bentvelzen - Environmental Science
  • Dr. Sigrid Dassen - Soil and Plant Science
  • Dr. Luewton Agostinho - Water Technology
  • Ms. Inge de Vries - Program Management

The advisory council for the applied research group

  • Prof. Annemarie van Wezel - Professor of Environmental Ecology, University of Amsterdam
  • Dr. Bert Hamelers - Programme Director, Wetsus
  • Mr. Jan Roelsma - Senior planning consultant for water quality, Wetterskip Fryslan
  • Mr. Henk Brink - Quality and strategy manager, WMD Drinkwater

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the applied research group, please email  [email protected] or call +31-(0)6 20 61 46 37.

This applied research group is supported by: