BR.20.010 – Risks of and interventions to pathogens in future urban waters worldwide

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 011 How can we ensure proper water governance in the future?

Water is essential to sustain human life and should be free of pathogens for many purposes, such as drinking, irrigation, recreation and to cool cities. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that pathogens can move with tourists or migrants across the world and this will further intensify with globalisation. Additionally, urbanisation will result in more people living closer together and potentially results in more exposure to contaminated water. Moreover, with climate change more extreme events including floods are likely and these move the contaminated water, exposing the population to pathogens. These global environmental changes will strongly influence the microbial water quality and the consequent health risks in cities across the world, also here in the Netherlands. Interventions, such as water treatment or risk awareness campaigns can reduce the health risks. Water has a central focus in our city planning, for example to cool cities and to allow for storage. However, the focus in planning is mostly on water quantity, while the microbial water quality should also be incorporated. The main objectives of our project proposal are to: (1) quantitatively link urban waters and health and (2) identify and evaluate possible interventions in order to reduce the exposure to waterborne pathogens. The interdisciplinary consortium will develop a systems approach that evaluates the infection risks through exposure to contaminated water and will assess the influence of global environmental change and interventions. We plan to combine monitoring and modelling using a participative approach with stakeholders and society. Our approach will be generically applicable across the world and we will apply it in several case study cities (e.g. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Khulna (Bangladesh) and Kampala (Uganda)) that are facing different challenges through globalisation, urbanisation and climate change and are all relevant for public health in the Netherlands. This project enhances preparedness for potential waterborne disease outbreaks.


City, climate change, globalisation, health, infections, interventions, pathogens, urbanisation, water

Other organisations

Deltares, KWR, PBL, Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM), Utrecht University (UU)


Organisation Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
Name N. (Nynke) Hofstra