Reference application: The Amsterdam Watersupply Dunes (Netherlands) - Literature review


The Amsterdam Watersupply Dunes (AWD) are located at the North Sea coast about 25 km west of Amsterdam near Zandvoort and cover an area of approximately 3400 ha. Because of their elevation above sea level, a rain-fed (about 5 km wide and up to 120 m deep) freshwater lens was able to develop in the saline aquifer. This natural freshwater resource was used for the water supply of Amsterdam since 1853 (Geelen et al. 2017). Rising water demand and resulting overexploitation led to declining groundwater levels, seawater intrusion, upconing of the underlying saline groundwater, and subsequently a decline in raw water quality.

To mitigate these problems and increase the water availability, an artificial groundwater recharge system was installed and started operation in 1957. Pre-treated surface water from the Rhine River (inlet at the Lek Canal in Nieuwegein) is continuously infiltrated in the dune area via 40 infiltration ponds. The infiltrated water is recovered in deep extraction canals before it is treated and sent to the distribution network. The residence time of the infiltrated water in the aquifer varies between at least 60 days (Brochure 2014) and several years (van Breukelen et al. 1998). The share of autochtonous shallow (Stuyfzand & Doomen 2004) groundwater (natural dune water) in the recovered water is about 20/25 % (Stuyfzand & Doomen 2004).

This ATR (aquifer transfer and recovery) system, which is sometimes also referred to as the “Amsterdam dune water machine” or, in Dutch, “Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen”, has similar advantages as bank filtration systems: The dune sand acts as a natural filter. It is a barrier for bacteria and viruses and helps break down organic micropollutants.


Aquifer transfer and Recovery, ATR, Urban water supply


Application scale

Freshwater production

Source of water for infiltration