What we do
Have you ever wondered what happens to the waste water after you wash up, take a shower or use the toilet? Aquafin collects the waste water from the municipalities and treats it so that it can be returned to nature. At the end of 2019, 84% of all domestic waste water in Flanders was connected to one of Aquafin’s more than 320 waste water treatment plants.
The expertise we posses around the water cycle also enables us to bring water into harmony with our living environment. Dealing with rainwater smartly helps to cope with periods of drought and reduce the risk of flooding. In this way, together with local policymakers, we can mitigate the impact of climate change.
Partner for clean watercourses and a living environment in harmony with water
Projects for the Flemish Region and municipalities
Aquafin was established by the Flemish Region to catch up on the treatment of domestic waste water. Every year, the Flemish Region assigns us a programme of projects for the further development and optimisation of the supra-municipal water treatment infrastructure necessary for this. Towns, cities and municipalities can also rely on us. One in three local authorities worked with Aquafin for their sewer management, either directly or via a partnership with water companies water-link or De Watergroep (Riopact).
Smart with water
As a result of climate change, we are experiencing short-term heavy rainfall and long-term drought more and more often in Flanders. Aquafin has the knowledge and tools in house to work out scenarios offering sustainable solutions that go beyond simply adapting. At the request of municipalities, property developers or large land owners, we develop innovative concepts aimed at smart use of water now and in the future. We seek the most efficient solutions for waste water and focus on recycling and buffering of rainwater. The measures we propose for this always have a high natural and amenity value.
All of the projects we carry out for the Flemish Region are also financed by us. Hence the 'fin' in Aquafin. Thus, in order to be able to carry out the projects, we have to constantly go to the financial market. While a project is in progress, we take out short-term loans. As soon as it is delivered to the Region, it comes under long-term finance. The water companies then reimburse Aquafin for the project, spread over 15 or 30 years.
Thanks to an excellent credit rating and a diversified investment portfolio, Aquafin manages to obtain finance for all of its projects. We find that investors increasingly want to invest in projects offering added value for the environment and society.
Aquafin manages each project that has been assigned by the Flemish Region right through from the feasibility phase to implementation, with the necessary respect for the environment. Wether we're connecting extra pollution load to a waste water treatment plant or disconnecting a brook from the sewer network, all of the projects we carry out for the Region have the goal of improving the water quality of watercourses in Flanders. Each project we deliver is therefore a new step towards clean water.
Sewage works tend to be disruptive, especially if they are carried out in the centre of a village or on a busy road. As the main contractor, Aquafin aims to keep the nuisance for the surrounding area to a minimum. Therefore, form the design phase of a project onwards, we take into account the local situation. The contractors who carry out the work for us have to apply Less Nuisance measures from our specifications on site. We also pay a great deal of attention to accurate and timely information about the works for local residents and business owners.
Reliable and high-performing infrastructure
The waste water treatment infrastructure we build and manage has to be reliable and do exactly what it is designed to do, now and in the future. A well-maintained sewer should normally last for 75 years. That is a long time, and fortunate as well, since in Flanders we have quite some capital underground.
Aquafin pursues a certified asset management strategy focussed on a maximum lifespan for our assets and the management of risks. We have long-term maintenance plans for our main assets to ensure good operation throughout the lifecycle. Thanks to continuous improvement and knowledge development, we can also respond to a rapidly evolving and complex environment.
To keep the maintenance of the infrastructure affordable while also keeping the risks under control, Aquafin follows a risk profile-based methodology. For each sewer, we determine the consequences of a potential failure- ecologically, economically and socially. The sewers with the greates criticality are inspected more often than others. If damage is found during an inspection, their repair is prioritised. We use state-of-the-art techniques adjusted to circumstances. This ensures that we target the available resources and eliminate the most important risks.
Transporting and treating waste water
Every day, Aquafin treats the domestic waste water of about 5 million Flemings. Via the municipal sewers, it goes into large collector sewers which transport it to a waste water treatment plant. The plant's capacity is directly related to the size of the connected treatment area. Nowadays, we mostly build small-scale treatment plants which are well-integrated in the surroundings. We have in-house knowledge on the wide range of treatment systems installed in Flanders.
After a mechanical and biological treatment process, the waste water is clean enough not to disturb the life in the watercourse.
The water that ends up in a river or stream via our waste water treatment plants has to comply with the standards set for 5 parameters: BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), COD (chemical oxygen demand), suspended solids, nitrogen and phosphorus. These standards set the upper limit for the concentration of the parameters in the treated waste water as well as a removal percentage through the treatment process.
Waste water treatment for industries
Our subsidiary, Aquaplus, offers the knowledge and expertise of Aquafin to Belgian companies with their own water treatment facilities. Aquaplus can count among its customers several major companies form the food and drink sector, the chemical sector and the pharmaceutical sector. Projects vary and relate to all aspects of the water treatment cycle.