Utilities Digital Solutions Europe

Connecting Dutch water stakeholders in Groningen using serious gaming

Thursday, 10 February 2022

A Dutch collaboration known as Aqua Ludens is bringing together water stakeholders in the Groningen region to help with long-term planning.

New ways to unite water decision makers

[Header image credit: Groningen Seaports]

The Netherlands has historically been abundant in water. With about a third of the country below sea level, it has had to become a master of resilience and adaptation, engineering its landscape to cope with high levels of water over the years.

However, the last three dry summers have shown that even a nation with lots of water could soon lack freshwater in parts of the country.

Hein Pieper, Dijkgraaf from Water Authority Rijn en Ijssel, recently spoke to Aquatech Online about the urgent need for circular water solutions in light of successive dry summers.

Furthermore, with industry expanding, including green hydrogen, there will be a large increase in demand for process water.

As a result, the Dutch province of Groningen is trialling new ways to unite industrial and utility decision makers to help with long-term water planning.

“Rather than starting conventionally by talking to each other, we started the meeting with a serious game.”

A project called Aqua Ludens is bringing together multiple stakeholders by using serious gaming to help share insights into the importance of water, freshwater availability and economic feasibility.

The three-year project includes partners KWR Water Research Institute, WLN (Water Laboratory North), Exeter University (UK) and NHL Stenden University of Applied Science Leeuwarden.

Aqua Ludens is co-financed by the WiCE programme, part of the research from Dutch drinking water companies that are shareholders of KWR and several other stakeholders through the organisation, EemsdeltaGreen.

From water abundance to water challenges

For its first meeting, Aqua Ludens introduced serious gaming to nearly 15 stakeholders across the region. For many, it was an entirely new concept.

“Rather than starting conventionally by talking to each other, we started the meeting with a serious game to help everyone immediately engage with each other,” said Dirk van der Woerdt, strategic advisor business development at WLN, a joint venture of the drinking water companies from the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe.

“All stakeholders are needed to help design water systems of the future.”

Serious gaming enables individuals to swap places and roles but virtually in a safe environment. It has been developed with the primary goal of education and learning to facilitate interaction between people with rules, structures and goals. This is contrary to casual gaming, which has the primary objective of entertainment.

“Different stakeholders sometimes lack a complete understanding of the functioning of the water system or the complete overview of the motivations of other stakeholders,” said Peter van Thienen, a principal scientist at KWR.

He believes all stakeholders are needed to help design water systems of the future, and serious gaming is one way to engage large, diverse groups.

“Additional instruments, such as serious gaming, can help with this understanding and thus lead to more balanced decisions.”

Taking Aqua Ludens international

Over the three years, the serious game being developed will offer the following:

  • Development of a hydrological/economical model to provide insights on how different measures and interventions will help to balance supply and demand in the future
  • Making the impact of measures and investments visible, also for individual parties such as industries, and how choices made now can influence available choices in the future
  • Making the impact of scenarios transparent
  • To go through the 'search process' of the possible impact of the scenarios together with the stakeholders.

After the three-year project in the Groningen province, the partners intend to take the learnings further afield in the Netherlands and internationally. In the long term, a solution is being developed which can be applied to other areas in the Netherlands and beyond the country’s borders.

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