Onno Kramer (PhD)
"Sustainable drinking water for all of us through the combination of practice, research and education"
Water is so common that we hardly ever think about it: we simply open the tap and drinking water flows out, as a matter of course. But behind this miracle straight from our taps there is much more than meets the eye. Producing reliable drinking water is a complex affair and actually not so self-evident. It is therefore a great good and a blessing that many people have confidence in the quality of Dutch tap water. How different this is in large parts of the world where many people have no good access to water at all. For me, this is a strong motivation to contribute to the design of tailor-made solutions.
As early as my chemical engineering study days I discovered that I have a passion for the 'water' business. And soon I got young people involved in my search for improvements. I get great pleasure from trying to unravel the secrets and mysteries of water together with these youngsters, and research projects are ideally suited for this purpose. Dozens of students have since become engineers, and a substantial part of them now work in the water sector. This is something I'm very proud of.
Many new, unusual ideas have become a success. A few secrets of this are simply having fun, enjoying one another’s achievements and persevering, especially in the event of failure and by approaching complex questions with an open mind - but sometimes also by just getting on with the tough chores. Technology can be boring at times, but if you succeed then you are really on to something. This approach fits in well with the major issues that are currently facing the water sector. In about one generation’s time, most drinking water companies will have to expand enormously in terms of their capacity. And in addition to securing the supply of sufficient water, water must also be of impeccable quality.
Even though drinking water is not that expensive at all, it comes with a price tag attached: costs play a major role besides the need to address safety, scarcity and the environment. Whenever and wherever people seek solutions to problems pertaining to the water cycle, the call for sustainability is heard almost non-stop. But what one actually thinks about sustainability is also crucial.
In short, the 'water' business is a challenging business, and my approach is to establish connections between research, education and professional practice in order to make a valuable social contribution. I do this on the one hand by putting myself in the service of the core task of 'water-making' and on the other hand by training a new generation of 'future-oriented engineers'. This requires a solid long-term vision on the part of water companies as well as a new approach to education on the part of educational institutions. I have the courage to do this - but who dares to follow suit, and who is going to join me?