WaterStraat experimental lab

By VP Delta – Inge Sneijder

In addition to dykes for protecting the Dutch harbours and coastline against high water, there are many other innovative products that focus on rainwater flooding in cities caused by more extreme weather. For example, water buffers built under houses, smart rainwater containers placed against façades or water storage facilities on roofs. A new experimental living lab – De WaterStraat – has been set up to test these solutions. Government bodies, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions are working together in this lab to develop practically applicable solutions to make the city future-proof, thereby limiting flooding and damage and optimising quality of life.

A sea shell buffer

One of these entrepreneurs is Henk Pannekoek of Ecologisch Waterbeheer (EWB). He has designed an underground system made up of sea shells, which buffers and purifies rainwater from heavy showers: “At WaterStraat, we want to show that our water purification installation can be easily integrated into the existing infrastructure. This can help avoid complicated and costly renovations.” Pannekoek is happy with the new experimental living lab. He continues: “Thanks to WaterStraat, our system has gained the necessary visibility helping us to market our sea shell buffer faster. In addition, it offers us the opportunity to get the operation of our system validated and documented by TU Delft, and to answer any outstanding research questions.”


Apart from research, collaboration is also an important aspect. Pannekoek: “We are already seeing the positive effects of collaborating with other entrepreneurs to find solutions for a future-proof city. On the one hand, this has helped create a market and, on the other hand, it has also helped establish a very tangible link between solutions and innovations in practice, thereby enhancing each other’s added value.” Businesswoman Dorian Hill (Hill Innovation BV) agrees: “The unique thing about WaterStraat is that we address the larger research questions together with other entrepreneurs. Instead of working on our own, we are looking for suitable combinations for linking together multiple innovations. The fact that the research is carried out by specialised scientists makes it objective and interesting.”


Bufferblock is Hill Innovations’ solution for water storage in urban areas. “In many cities, groundwater levels are very high. The concrete Bufferblock can be placed just below the road surface but can still store high volumes of water. Rainwater enters the hollow spaces of the Bufferblocks via water-permeable road paving or storm drains, after which the water infiltrates further into the soil or is drained off. In addition, the block has been made so strong that lorries can still drive over the road with no problems. The combination of capacity, strength and relatively low costs can offer an integral solution for a large urban area.”