OSIRIS - Tracing Metropolitan Brussels water routes

Project Details


From Clabecq to Zemst, the Brussels ship-canal, together with the rivers Zenne and Sennette determine a vertical transregional geographical area (~ 800 km²) over which sustainable development of the Brussels economy will continue to thrive and expand in the coming decades. Quantitatively and qualitatively, trans-boundary water transfers constitute the essential backbone that supports urbanization and socio-economic developments, within this area. Consequently, anthropogenic activities profoundly modify natural water circulation and transfers as well as water quality. Many threats are associated with these modifications. Hydrological risks, often bound to ongoing climate changes, such as recurrent floods or persistent drought affecting ship navigation, together with chemical hazards, ranging from the regular release of untreated sewages all the way to major industrial pollution, demand management actions transgressing the individual jurisdictional boundaries of Wallonia, Flanders and the Brussels-Capital Region. Clearly waterways constitute both arteries and veins to urban life (societal and economy). However, their existence is also imperative to maintain key environmental corridors capable to support biodiversity (and quality of life) in a densely populated and urbanized area such as Brussels and its hinterland. Therefore, scientists with an established track record in water-management from the two major Brussels universities join forces and combine their complementary expertise to provide key water data in a format responding to the needs of urban planning and industrial developments efforts demanded by policy makers from the 3 regions.
Accordingly, the general objective of this project is to establish a box-model representation of water and polluting chemical budgets for the whole Brussels Metropolitan Community (BMC) area - in its trans-boundary definition - and for its key functional sub-components. This aim will be achieved by combining classical and innovative hydrological and sediment dynamics analyses with the use of standard and innovative tracers such as B and its isotopic coposition, Pb and its isotopic composition or NO3 and its isotopic composition.
Concrete results of this project will be (1) water budgets that quantify incoming and outgoing water fluxes in the various sub-components of the aquatic continuum of the BMC area under various hydrological circumstances. (2) Particulate matter budgets, with a focus on fine particulate matter fluxes associated to rapidly flowing waters as these are the most relevant for particulate contaminants, in the various sub-components of the aquatic continuum of the BMC area and (3) Pollution tracer budgets that will allow to assess water quality degradation in the transiting waters from up to downstream.
Based on the scientific knowledge obtained within the study, the three Regional water management plans (2d release, Wallonia, Flanders and RBC) will be evaluated and compared in view of possible improvements and better interactivity in consideration of possible BMC-scale concerted efforts.
Effective start/end date1/10/1430/09/16


  • Environmental monitoring
  • Nitrogen biogeochemistry
  • Urban water
  • Water Management
  • Pollution

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Sustainable and environmental engineering
  • Environmental science and management
  • Geology
  • Physical geography and environmental geoscience
  • Oceanography


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