Interview with Dr. Dietrich Bartelt, Founder and Associate of DB Sediments
How did you come to invent “DB Sediments” to solve sediment problems sustainably?
Our business is about the sustainable use of water. It targets processes that happen in rivers – erosion and sedimentation. Before we started the business in 2009, I was very curious to find scientific information about sedimentation and siltation. I was very happy to discover the GWSP knowledge base with information on all different kinds and shades of the water business. It was a crucial point. From the maps that (GWSP Co – Chair) Charles Vörösmarty created, we came to the idea that sedimentation and siltation is a global issue. At the time we developed our business approach, very few publications on the value of sediments to the ecosystem existed. The GWSP knowledge base as a very sound database really helped in providing the information we needed. From that we developed our business idea. We address the global market and now operate in many countries all over the world.
What are the challenges which global hydro installation face and how do you approach these?
The capacity of rivers to transport solids (sand, gravel, stones) depends on the speed of the water flow. A naturally floating river has a high capacity of transporting solids. When the speed is reduced, large particles settle down and only small particles move on. Once you want to use water and store it, you influence the flow regime of the natural river in the way that you reduce the maximum speed, starting at the intake point of the reservoir to zero speed at the dam. It is only a matter of time until the solids which are transported through the river deposit in the reservoir. Once sediments fill up the reservoir, storage capacity is lost. This is in my opinion a neglected global issue which needs awareness. We have a global population which is steadily growing and a rising global demand for freshwater. We need water storage capacity for drinking water, irrigation purposes and hydro power generation. Additionally, we need storage capacity for floods and retention volume. This is an issue that was not well addressed on a global scale so far. The GWSP knowledge base helped a lot to quantify the risks of siltation and sedimentation. Based on the provided information, we were able go ahead with our company DB Sediments.
How to solve sediment problems in an environmentally friendly way?
The storage of water is an impact to the river as an ecosystem. When building a dam, the natural flow regime of the water is cut. An unbalanced sediments deposit in front of the dam and a lack of sediments on the downstream side are the result. It is very important that sediments are passed on through the river to the delta in order to avoid problems such as river and coastal erosion. With our approach we simulate the natural water flow by helping nature to transfer sediments from the area in the reservoir where they deposit to an area where they can be further transported by the river. This way we are able to compensate the negative effects of storing and using water and bring back the natural balance.
We thank Dr Bartelt for this interview.