Rotterdam Cooperation in the wastewater chain

Research plan for a decentralized water cycle

The background

The Rotterdam Cooperation in the Wastewater Chain (Rotterdamse Samenwerking in de Afvalwaterketen (RoSA) in Dutch) wants to work towards a circular water chain by 2050. This is a response to the major challenges Rotterdam is facing: extreme weather, drought, circular economy and urban development in a vulnerable delta. To gain insight into the circular water chain, experimental processes are followed and facilitated. The project in BlueCity contributes to issues related to the decentralized loop closure of (waste) water systems at the building level.



In 2019, BlueCity (a breeding ground for circular companies in the old Tropicana in Rotterdam) started the renovation of its event location, through which they aim to apply circular principles as much as possible, in various ways. To close the water cycle, BlueCity has come together with SEMiLLA Sanitation Hubs (SEMiLLA) and the Rotterdam Cooperation in the Wastewater Chain (RoSA). They have asked Copper8 to draft a plan for a research project to investigate the decentralization of the water cycle using a pilot installation, and its impact on the collective provision of drinking water, sewage and wastewater treatment.

The question

Draft a research plan for the ‘BlueCity Circular Water’ experiment that will give us insight into the feasibility and scalability of local circular (waste) water treatment. In the plan:

  • Feasibility means a profitable business case must be technically possible;
  • Scalability relates to the societal advantages and disadvantages as well as the changing division of roles of the organizations involved.

Current situation and future

The research plan must be in line with the research questions RoSA drew up in 2016 in the ‘RoSA Wastewater Chain Strategy’. These questions are divided over four development paths: 1) using structures, 2) separating streams, 3) closing cycles and 4) participation and society. This project mainly focused on development paths 3 and 4. In addition, research questions were formulated to test the operation of the SEMiLLA installation.

The process

It quickly became clear what the technical task was going to be in this assignment. The stakeholders’ interests and goals were then collected to frame the technology, and we developed a step-by-step plan to answer the research questions. This plan is based partly on the steps of the SEMiLLA technology’s installation process and partly on the needs of the different stakeholders. A project budget was drawn up based on the steps.

The results

The process led to an integral Plan of Action that clarifies the research trajectory for 2020 and 2021 and provides the steps for answering the various research questions. The Plan includes a detailed financial section. In addition – and perhaps more importantly – there has been improved shared understanding among the different stakeholders (municipalities, water boards, technology suppliers and sustainable entrepreneurs) in the transition to a circular water cycle.

“With their warm and relaxed input and approach, Marijn and Noor have achieved an impressive project result in a complex playing field of interests.” Hans Geerse Senior water chain consultant

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