Dutch Surge Support (DSS water) provides emergency relief for water-related disasters. To do so, they deploy experts like Peter van Zwol and Frank Hoogers. They both work for Independent Energy, a company that provides off-grid solar energy. In Gaza and Syria, water supply systems run on solar energy. "Our work is extremely important," says Peter. "We make the difference for people between having water and having no water."
Plans often overlook the importance of solar power for water supply systems. "People in the water business often do not consider solar energy as a power source for their water pumps. It is a pity," says Frank. "Solar energy is by far the cheapest and most sustainable solution. It is a bit of an investment, but it pays for itself in 3 to 4 years. Many countries in conflict situations, such as Gaza and Syria, do not have access to fuels such as diesel to power their water pumps. The sun is a great alternative."
Involve solar power at an early stage
Both experts say it is crucial to think about solar power at an early stage of a water project. "The later you involve solar panels, the more expensive and difficult it becomes to add them," says Peter. The work they do in Gaza and Syria differs from their usual activities. "We install, build, and sell the hardware for solar power systems. In this case, we give advice, and other companies build the system."
It is a challenge in both countries to get the correct information. "Before we start designing a system, we need to know how much energy people use. Most people do not know this. Working remotely makes it hard for us to find out," says Peter. There is also the issue of sending building parts abroad. "It is very difficult to get equipment past the borders. Customs officers see big solar batteries as military equipment," adds Frank.
Opportunities for the future
Peter and Frank hope to be more involved in the water business in the future. "We see so many opportunities to make access to water cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable with solar power. We hope the water business starts seeing our value too." Peter hopes the Netherlands Enterprise Agency will connect more water and energy companies in its projects. "There is so much we can do together. A unique partnership between the government, a private company and a non-profit organisation can make the world a little better."
Improving emergency aid together
Through DSS water, the Netherlands aims to help the humanitarian sector with water expertise. DSS water is a surge support mechanism that uses the water expertise network from the Netherlands and beyond. After signing up, experts can respond to requests for emergency aid. These requests come from international humanitarian organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO and IOM. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency carries out the DSS water programme. The Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) and the Netherlands Red Cross support the programme.