From a linear to a circular renovation process in urban water management

In 2050, the Netherlands should be 100% circular. This means that we should close the loops in which materials and products lose their value as little as possible. To reach that goal, we need to change our way of working radically, but how? At Koos, we help organisations make their circular vision concrete and actionable. In this project for the RIONED foundation, we collaborated with four municipalities to find opportunities to make their renovation processes in urban water management more circular.


RIONED foundation


How can we make urban water management's (renovation) processes more circular?


A hands-on, bottom-up toolkit that allows municipalities to make their circular ambitions concrete for urban water management independently.

A Toolkit that makes circular urban water management concrete

The RIONED Foundation is a Dutch branch organisation that works as a knowledge centre for everything related to urban water management, this includes public sewage and drainage systems. RIONED aims to gather knowledge about urban water management and share it with all players from the field – Municipalities, water authorities, the provincial and federal government, companies, and educational institutions. From their position, RIONED wants to explore how the circular economy can be implemented in urban water management. 

In this project, we focussed on opportunities to make renovating sewage systems more circular. Four municipalities (Arnhem, West Maas en Waal, Tilburg and Wageningen) were involved, with each their own context and renovation case.


In this project, we focussed on opportunities to make renovating sewage systems more circular. Four municipalities* were involved, with each their own context and renovation case.

Upscaling to other municipalities

To upscale this approach to other municipalities, we developed a toolkit for municipalities to continue working on their ambitions autonomously. The toolkit can be used independently by any municipality that wants to make its linear process more circular. Going through several iterations, we created a three-step process together with experts at RIONED, which is now being tested in several participating municipalities and newly interested organisations.


This project took a meta-level approach – with four municipalities joining from their perspectives. Still, we created a process overview that fit most of their situations. This overview brought clarity which allowed conversations to run smoothly between the various participants and an easier understanding of each other’s situations. The participating municipalities enthusiastically received the toolkit. Although it still proves to be a struggle to find space for sustainability in a project, the tests are progressing, and we can soon work with their learnings. The toolkit is available for public use on the RIONED Foundation’s website.

Aligning stakeholders in the transition toward the circular economy

To understand the current renovation process, we talked to stakeholders from the participating municipalities, policy advisors, contractors, urban water management experts and researchers. We looked into their role in the current process, their challenges around circularity, and the current market developments. We gathered insights into how uncertainty in outcome causes paralysis around making decisions on sustainability and how the risks to investing in sustainability are high for contractors if they do not know what the municipality will expect of them.

Visualising and sharing our insights

We created a general overview of the current linear renovation process in urban water management based on our gathered information. With this process journey, we had a clear overview of the phases of a renovation project, the stakeholders involved and how they interact, and the steps from a multi-year policy plan to the delivery of a renovation project. We also incorporated feedback from several experts and urban water managers. 

Furthermore, we presented insights into the urban water management field’s relation to circularity.

Co-creating opportunities

To turn our findings into concrete results, we organised a workshop day and invited the four participating municipalities to bring a team of colleagues. The process journey, printed on posters, functioned as the basis for concrete opportunities to make the linear process more circular. Since the process varies between the municipalities, each adapted the general process journey to their current process. Together with circularity experts, the municipalities identified opportunities in their process and situation for circular interventions.

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