Exchange brings Dutch water technology home

Ryerson student Spencer Crook, on exchange in the Netherlands. (Courtesy Nora Sutton, Wageningen University)

Ryerson student Spencer Crook, on exchange in the Netherlands. (Courtesy Nora Sutton, Wageningen University)

Ryerson Urban Water (RUW), a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers focusing on water solutions for cities, hopes its new partnership with Wageningen University can encourage the adoption of progressive water solutions at Ryerson.

Spencer Crook is an environmental science management master’s student at Ryerson and is currently on exchange in the Netherlands at Wageningen University. He said that he can see creative water solutions everywhere he goes.

“The Dutch seem to be masters of water,” Crook said. “Everywhere you go, there’s canals or dikes … they’re trying to control the water every step of the way, which makes sense because they’re in danger of just being flooded and taken over the by the sea at any given moment.”

The Netherlands has unique water needs in that most of the country is below sea level. Because of this, it’s forced to implement creative flood water management systems.

Wageningen University was named the best university in the Netherlands and  was ranked 47th in the world by Times Higher Education. The research it conducts on water is a primary reason for this.

RUW manager of partnerships and outreach, Angela Murphy, said she admires the university’s water technology.

“They undertake a lot of green, sustainable, practical and applied research,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, it’s that progressive approach that RUW is looking to incorporate into its own initiatives.

“We’re hoping that by sending students over and having the students come back, it will raise the comfort level that our community has as to installing some of those technologies here on campus,” she said.

Murphy said it’s her hope students like Crook will bring back experience with these systems.

An example of Dutch technology that RUW wanted to install in one of the new prospective university properties was biogas digestion. It comes in the form of a toilet system that separates feces from urine, transports the feces to a tank where micro-organisms consume it and produce gasses that can then be converted into useable energy, such as electricity.

But the project was ultimately put on hold.

“The engineers who were a part of the building (process) got cold feet,” Murphy said.

She attributed the hesitation to lack of Canadian familiarity with progressive water systems.

“A lot of the Dutch technologies haven’t been utilized in Canada,” said Murphy.

“So then to convince people to allow us to install that kind of infrastructure into a new building … Canadians are very risk averse and very reticent.

“So we’ve kind of been stalled on that one project.”

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