The water resources of companies in the port of Antwerp and along the Albert Canal are under increasing pressure due to climate change. During a drought, not only the water level is a cause for concern, but salinization also increases sharply, which affects many companies. A sensor network enables real-time monitoring via dashboards. The associated data analysis by VITO's experts enables more targeted operational management and better coordination between the various actors.
- A sensor network provides real-time monitoring and systemic insight
- The visualisation offers opportunities for faster and more targeted water management
- The water quality and water level can be better balanced
Major economic importance
The port of Antwerp is the most important oil and chemical cluster in Europe and has many water-intensive companies that need large quantities of water for their production process, cooling or steam production. Capturing surface water from docks and canals is crucial for these companies.
The freshwater source connecting to the port of Antwerp is the Albert Canal, which is fed with water from the Meuse. The drinking water company water-link extracts water from the Albert Canal for its drinking water production.
VITO advised on setting up a sensor network and selecting the optimal location for 45 measurement points in the Albert Canal and the Antwerp harbour docks. We also support the analysis and smart interpretation of the measurement results. All this is done as part of the European Horizon 2020 project Aquaspice (https://aquaspice.eu).
Continuous monitoring with sensors provides systematic insight into the quality and quantity of the water in the Albert Canal and the harbour docks. On the Albert Canal, this offers new opportunities for both the drinking water company water-link and Vlaamse Waterweg, the governmental agency that manages the Albert Canal and other navigable waterways. There are also significant benefits for port authorities and major water users in the area.
Water quality, drought and flooding
Dashboards with targeted visualisations of the measurements show nearly real-time where and when a change in water quality occurs. This allows timely action to be taken to reduce risks for capturing water of unfavourable composition, among other things.
After the floods in Wallonia during the summer of 2021, water with possible pollution from the flooded area could be monitored through the Albert Canal. The intrusion of saltwater from the harbour docks due to pumping back water to maintain the level of the Albert Canal during the summer 2022 drought period could also be closely monitored thanks to the sensor network and dashboards.
The deployment of digital water technology and the visualisation of the sensor measurements on dashboards and associated data analysis by VITO contributed to a balanced coordination with all parties involved in the management of the water system. The impact of management decisions becomes transparent to the various actors, allowing mutual consultation to take place with more detail and fewer uncertainties. This allows all stakeholders in the area to act proactively and develop a strategy that reconciles the various interests.