In a world where the demand for fresh water is increasing whilst resources are under increasing pressure, it is clear that a more circular usage of water is needed. This often requires drastic measures and high-level investments in water systems and infrastructure by many different parties and organisations. But how to decide what to invest in, when and how much? That is where one of NWP’s newest members, Frontier Ventures, comes in. Frontier Ventures uses AquaVest, its AI based software solution, to answer these questions. Earlier this year, Frontier Ventures won the Watervisie prize for being the Water Innovator of 2020. Today, founder Duska Disselhoff, introduces her company to the NWP membership.
‘Frontier Ventures is a young and ambitious organisation that focuses on water circularity and nature conservation. As the name suggests, we intend to launch various game changing initiatives – ventures. Our first venture comes under the name AquaVest. This is our proprietary software which we developed in partnership with a company specialised in mathematical algorithms.
The starting point for this venture is not difficult to explain. It is based on our belief that we need to help bring about some of the water related sustainable development goals (SDGs). The world is using too much fresh water and natural resources are drying up, leaving humans and nature in danger. We will need to reduce our water usage, increase water recycling methods, and find innovative ways of recovering water resources. But where do we start with finding the right measures and taking the right decisions on water infrastructure investments? The water system in a given area is often very complicated. Agriculture, industries, companies, regional governments, water councils, households and so on – there are many different parties involved in the existing water system.
As a first step, we can use AquaVest to map the current water balance, showing all the stakeholders, taking their needs, variables and interlinking dependencies into account. In this analysis we can also incorporate the entire existing water infrastructure. The mapping in itself is often a great eye-opener for all those involved.
Our second step is to look into the future. We do this by entering all the known data, as well as the data that is still uncertain and will remain uncertain for the next 20 years. For instance, we do not know yet how water supply and demand will develop or how water taxes or discharge tariffs might change in the future, but AquaVest allows us to relatively quickly evaluate the impact of uncertainties by varying the input. This way we can identify tipping points and other effects at the system level. The reason for looking 20 years ahead is because of the fact that investments in water infrastructure are huge. Just think of the costs of building assets like treatment plants, pipelines or storage units. You want to take the right decisions from the start.
For each scenario, we produce a water infrastructure solution and investment strategy that balances technical, economic, social and ecological values. AquaVest not only identifies the required investments, but spreads these investments over time in such a way as to generate the highest financial value. This way, we can help develop transition pathways towards a more sustainable water future.
Why do we use AI (artificial intelligence)? Simply because the human brain cannot grasp and process so many different variables and interdependencies. By ‘outsourcing’ the calculation of so many different options to the algorithm, the humans can focus on the evaluation of the outcomes and on the high-level decisions that need to be taken to bring about the water transition. AquaVest also supports the development of new policies and regulations because it can evaluate the impact of measures at system level and outline the costs and benefits of these measures for each stakeholder. This way, the right incentives can be identified to stimulate the responsible use and reuse of water.
We have successfully used our method in a large project in the Netherlands in which we partnered various organisations including the Province of North Brabant, waterboard De Dommel, and four large industries. But actually, this way of working with algorithms and future scenarios is already quite common in the oil and gas industry where long term infrastructure investment strategies are carefully developed. We are now introducing this holistic method to the wider water sector, which is why we are also very excited to become part of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). Frontier Ventures started as a business only in 2018, so we are still in the process of building a track record in the Netherlands. But, obviously, we are also looking beyond the borders, especially because drought and other water scarcity issues are issues faced by many European countries as well as large parts of other continents.
We hope that our NWP membership will help us create impact all over the world and we look forward to collaborating with international organisations that have similar ambitions. We strongly believe that we have a very valuable Finance for Water tool for organisations that work on high-level decision-making on water infrastructure investment strategies.’
Joining the NWP network
By joining NWP, Frontier Ventures becomes part of a wider coalition of members consisting of Dutch business, governmental organisations, knowledge institutions and NGOs. NWP and its members work globally wherever Dutch water expertise can contribute to solving global water challenges which too often are related to, and are increasingly because of, climate change. NWP seeks to boost the international impact of the Dutch water sector through contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and creating the conditions conducive to knowledge exchange, matchmaking opportunities and assignments for its members.
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