Boost for research into water management and planets

NSO has honored two proposals for new expertise networks: on water research and on planetary research. With the expertise networks programme, the Netherlands invests in scientific cooperation in space. In an expertise network, scientists conduct research in collaboration with experts from the business community or the public sector. Both expertise networks will start this month and will receive €690k.

Satellite data for drought, floods and water quality

Copernicus 2 image of Zeeland, bron: ESA
The Netherlands is a water country, and this is reflected in the diversity of participants in the knowledge network
'Water: New earth observation data for water research and applications'. In addition to scientists, consultancy firms, water boards, Rijkswaterstaat and research agencies participate in the network. According to associate professor Ype van der Velde, one of the coordinators of the knowledge network, this network offers a platform for experts from the water sector to think about what (scientific) knowledge is needed.

The aim of the knowledge network is to jointly investigate how satellite data can best support water management in the Netherlands. The scientists will focus on three areas: drought, flooding and water quality. 'With satellites you can see how much soil moisture there is and how the amount of water in plants changes during the day. This allows us to estimate how severe a drought is going to be, and where water will still be available during a dry period," van der Velde explains.

But satellites can also provide valuable information when it rains a lot. 'In the future, we will hopefully be able to see almost in real time where the water is coming, how much water that is and whether it will become a flood.'

In addition to drought and floods, the network will research water quality. 'The resolution of satellites is now good enough to monitor this for lakes, but most of the water in the Netherlands consists of ditches and canals. You cannot sample all of those by hand, so there is a great opportunity for the use of satellites in the future.'

According to Van der Velde, collaboration in a knowledge network is very valuable. 'A lot of knowledge is exchanged in the water world, but mainly at a regional level or during specific projects. While the challenges in water management are national. Now we will conduct national and methodical research and develop useful products. Hopefully, everyone in the water world can easily use good data in the future.'

'Leading role on a future planetary mission.'

How can you measure whether life exists on a planet? That is what the scientists in the expertise network for planetary research will investigate. The results are input for the measuring instruments of the future.

All Dutch u
Icy moons of Jupiter, bron: ESA
niversities that work on planetary research are
affiliated with the expertise network 'Research on observables of planetary habitability’. Wim van Westrenen, professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, is one of the leaders of the network: 'It is the first time that we combine national expertise in this area in one project.'

This collaboration offers new opportunities according to Van Westrenen: 'Now we can make choices together and think about what the niche of the Netherlands will be. The Netherlands may be a small country, but that also has advantages. We speak to each other often and can easily get together somewhere. That makes our position in planetary research stronger.'

The scientists will investigate how space missions could be used to observe possible traces of life in the solar system. They mainly look at the interior and surface of objects. Initially, the interest is in all kinds of places in the solar system: from Mars to the icy moons of Jupiter. Van Westrenen explains: 'After that, we will then choices and concentrate on one or two focus areas.' Because the expertise network has a clear ambition: 'In the future, we want an instrument with a Dutch principle investigator on a scientific space mission in the solar system.'


The NSO implements the expertise network programme in collaboration with the Dutch Research Council (NWO), with funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW).