New drought measures: Flanders helps companies map water consumption

New drought measures: Flanders helps companies map water consumption
Water storage and greenhouses of a strawberry grower in Wortegem-Petegem, Monday 08 August 2022. Low rainfall since March and the extremely dry weather of July result in a critically low groundwater level in Flanders. This farmer has installed a large water storage to cope better with shortages during dry spells. BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) located in Flanders will receive free so-called "water scans," helping them to visually map out their water consumption, as part of a new series of measures to save water.

While Flanders is widely considered a region prone to water shortages, the issue has become increasingly topical this spring and summer. Its government is now stepping up efforts to raise awareness among companies and support them in water-saving measures.

"The current drought shows that we need to take action now. With the Flemish Blue Deal, we want to support various companies in this," said Flemish Minister of Economic Affairs Jo Brouns.

Yet for many, water saving is not always at the top of their priority list, especially in light of other difficulties SMEs are facing, such as rising energy prices and labour shortages.

"That is why we want to use the water scans to give them an insight into the potential of water savings in their company. That is not only good for the environment but also for their financial returns," Brouns explained.

The scan also provides concrete suggestions such as water-saving appliances, using alternative water sources or water reuse. These suggestions come together to form a concrete and economically substantiated step-by-step plan tailored to each company.

Additional measures

A second series of "Blue Deal water-saving investments" was launched in summer 2020 to combat water scarcity and drought; this will also be supported via the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Enterprise (VLAIO).

This aimed to help SMEs save on mains, ground or surface water through a wide range of measures. It offered support for 12 projects that represent a total investment of €4.6 million in water-saving measures.

"These are, for example, actions to reduce water consumption through innovative technologies, to buffer rainwater or to reuse water through purification," Brouns explained.

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After the analysis of the projects by VLAIO, a total amount of €207,912 is granted to the projects, with the rest provided by the companies themselves. Specific projects include reusing processed water using various water treatment techniques, collecting rainwater and putting it to good use for sanitary applications or for business processes, and investments to improve the infiltration of rainwater into the soil.

In total, these projects represent a water-saving potential of over 8,517 m3 per year.

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