Alternative Water Resources Prize


BruggenDr. Bart Van der Bruggen of the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven

The topic for the 4th Award of the Alternative (Non-traditional) Water Resources Prize was “Innovative Methods for Water Production from Non-traditional Water Resources”. This prize is being awarded to Dr. Van der Bruggen for his work in the use of nanofiltration membrane technology for industrial water recycling.

Dr. Van der Bruggen has conducted important work on water recycling, including water recycling situation and principles, and the applications of various membrane technologies in wastewater regeneration.

These works have made new contributions to the knowledge and practice of water recycling.

010Dr. Van der Bruggen’s research explores the use of a number of different nanofiltration membrane technologies for a wide range of industrial situations as diverse as the textile industry, breweries, and car washes.  He also takes up “the challenge of zero discharge” where  he explores, within the context of the brewery process, methods for assessing the potential for water re-use directly or after regeneration, with the remaining wastewater included in an overall process scheme aiming at the ambitious goal of zero wastewater discharge.

Winner Profile

Dr. Bart van der Bruggen is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Division of Applied Physical Chemistry & Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven


• Applied Sciences, Chemical Engineering, K.U.Leuven, 2000
Dissertation topic: Removal of organic molecules from aqueous solution by nanofiltration

• Chemical Engineer, ir., K.U.Leuven, 1995

Chosen Awards: (last 7 years):

  1. Laureate of the Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten (Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts) in the class of Nature Sciences, 2006.
  2. Annual Award of the European Membrane Society (EMS) for the article B. Van der Bruggen, J. Geens, C. Vandecasteele, “Fluxes and rejections for nanofiltration with solvent stable polymeric membranes in water, ethanol and n-hexane” Chemical Engineering Science 2002, 57 (13), 2511-2518. (“best journal paper on membrane science and engineering published in 2002”)
  3. “Water reuse in breweries – B-IWA (Belgian Committee of the International Water Association) poster prize, November 2002.


Acceptance Speech

bruggenspeechYour Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, respected members of the Ministry, dear Colleagues, and everyone concerned:

Today I feel very honoured and grateful at the occasion of this prestigious Prize that has been awarded to me, and it is with great pleasure and pride that I accept the Prize. The Prize is a stimulation for innovation in the area of water resources, and particularly for the specific Prize awarded to me, for new advances in developing alternative water resources. Innovation is indeed what the world needs in finding solutions to provide water to all.

For this reason, I am even more proud to receive this recognition in this country, in Saudi Arabia.

It is well-known that Saudi Arabia is among the most innovative countries in the world, and even more so, a country that does not hesitate and radically made a choice for the future.

I would like to refer to a quote here, of which I couldn’t trace who said it first, but it summarizes innovation in Saudi Arabia in a single sentence. The quote is as follows: “The Stone Age ended, not because we ran out of stones, but because we found a better, more effective way.”

The quote is in fact about oil, but today we know that there are many similarities between oil and water for what concerns availability, and the idea expressed in the quote is precisely what I recognize as the philosophy of today’s International Prize for Water. The organization of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, under the patronage of His Royal Majesty Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, shows that Saudi Arabia is willing to take a lead in finding solutions to the worldwide challenge of providing water to all people.

One of the Millennium Development Goals has the ambition to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. This relates mainly to developing countries, many of which are in Africa. Today, much work still has to be done provide enough water. Those countries without access to safe water do not have the abilities to achieve this, but countries like Saudi Arabia and my own country, Belgium, can play an important role in leading the way. Saudi Arabia is taking its responsibilities by stimulation innovative solutions. Water availability is a critical challenge for Saudi Arabia in particular, and the entire world will learn from the solutions that have to be found and that will be found.

Personally I want to contribute by offering my expertise on water technologies, and I hope that I will find opportunities to do this not only in my home country, but also in connection with this country where visionary people understand what needs to be done, and what needs to be invested to come to sustainable solutions. Together we can make our dream come true. Together we can manage the water cycle, and even do more: we can find valuable resources separated from wastewater: minerals, chemicals, phosphates. In my keynote lecture, I will present to you my vision on total valorization of wastewater fractions, starting but not ending with water. To be able to do this, we have to look further than today and even than tomorrow. In this environment of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, I feel the stimulation to elaborate and continue this work. My expertise is available to those visionary people who believe in development of new water solutions.

Today, however, we have come a long way already in finding “new” water. In Singapore, people take this literally and drink treated wastewater, which they called NEWater. The idea is not new though: in Windhoek, Namibia, water recycling for drinking water purposes has been practiced for 40 years already. In Belgium, a drinking water facility treats secondary effluent and distributes it as high-quality drinking water. In this project, where I am involved, we investigate how we can improve the closing of the water cycle by separating more, and recovering more. It is my duty as scientist and expert to study, develop and advocate these technological solutions to find alternative water resources, other than groundwater or desalinated water. It is also my duty to assist world leaders and decision makers by offering scientific answers that can be used today, but also and even more importantly, those that will be used in the years to come.  Solutions exist or can be further developed. We have to do this together.

I experience this Prize as an outstanding appreciation for my work, which has concentrated on technologies for water recycling already for a long time. For this reason, I thank the organizers of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, the Prize Council, and His Royal Majesty Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz himself, for this extraordinary recognition, which will greatly stimulate me in working even harder to find alternatives for our conventional water resources.

Winning Work

Van der Bruggen, B.; Cornelis, G.; Vandecasteele, C.; I. Devreese, I. "Fouling of nanofiltration and ultrafiltration membranes applied for waste water regeneration in the textile industry". Desalination 2005, 175, 111-119.

Van der Bruggen, B.; Boussu, K.; De Vreese, I.; Van Baelen, G.; Willemse, F.; Goedemé, D.; Colen, W. "Industrial process water recycling: principles and examples". Environ. Progr. 2005, 24 (4), 417-425.

Van der Bruggen, B.; Braeken, L. "The challenge of zero discharge: from water balance to regeneration". Desalination 2006, 188 (1-3), 177-183. Boussu, K.; Kindts, C.; Vandecasteele, C.;

Van der Bruggen, B. "Applicability of nanofiltration in the carwash industry". Separ. Purif. Technol. 2007, 54 (2), 139-146.

Van der Bruggen, B. "The Global Water Recycling Situation". In: I.C. Escobar, A.I. Schäfer, Sustainable Science and Engineering: Sustainable Water for the Future: Water Recycling Versus Desalination. Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, p. 37-59 (2009).

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