Ledegem becomes


“What’s that smell coming from the canal?” asked the residents of Sint-Pietersstraat 73 to 81 in Ledegem a few years ago. “That's the waste water from house numbers 124 to 150,” was the answer. “So when will this be resolved?” they asked, naturally. “Sewerage will be installed in 2035.”

This is Belgium, a civilised country but still with a lot of work to do. And this problem is not limited to Ledegem – not by a long chalk. In many rural areas in Flanders, there is still no sewage system. Some 400,000 homes are not connected. Their waste water currently ends up untreated in the surface water, which has a negative impact on water quality. This is making it difficult to achieve the goal of the Water Framework Directive, which stipulates that all water in Europe must be clean and healthy by 2027 at the latest. However, this is probably not new information for you. With the “Ledegem becomes Leaudegem” project, we wish to demonstrate scalable, sustainable and modular small-scale water treatment plants (abbreviated to KWZI in Flemish), an innovative concept. This project has been accelerated with the support of the Flemish Land Agency (Vlaamse Landmaatschappij, VLM) and Blue Deal (under Water-Land-Schap 2.0).

Wouter Igodt

Founder of HelloWater

The added value of Leaudegem


Not 2035, not tomorrow, but now

The residential cluster at Ledegem was supposed to wait until 2035 before the construction of the sewage system began. The average turnaround time for sewerage projects is currently 7.7 years.

The turnaround time of the pilot project for the small-scale water treatment plant in Ledegem was 1 year. The installation took 45 days, and was completed in June 2022. HelloWater aims to be a partner from ‘design to management’ for similar decentralised concepts in residential clusters in Flanders.


A nature-based principle is applied to the water treatment. The treatment itself ensures that pure water is returned to nature, which improves biodiversity in the watercourses. The plant purification consists of flowering plants, which in turn attract insects. This also benefits the insect population. 


Putting the stress on water stress

The innovative, decentralised water treatment system keeps the water on site. This has a positive effect on water stress and helps to prevent the ground from drying out. For years, scientists have been arguing in favour of a low ‘water kilometre’ as a tool for better arming Flanders against drought. This means more buffering, greater infiltration and less direct discharge into major watercourses, which quickly funnel the water out into the North Sea. Local water purification can have a significant impact here.

Ecological footprint

Concrete is a very strong material that has already proven its worth countless times. However, the disadvantage is that Portland cement (CEM I) has a high ecological footprint due to the high CO2 emissions. In fact, concrete production is responsible for around 8% of global CO2 emissions. This needs to be addressed. Although Aquafin is making efforts to work with more sustainable concrete for the sewers, alternative water treatment can also significantly reduce the environmental impact.


A collaboration between the Municipality of Ledegem and HelloWater for a drastically different approach!

HelloWater is passionate about innovating in the water sector and making it more sustainable. It's no surprise, then, that the team soon clicked with those who wanted to push the project forward within the Municipality of Ledegem. What started with outlining a problem quickly changed to possibilities and opportunities. All the same, local authorities are still afraid to implement new technologies. They tend to fall back on the easy solution, even though it is not adequate for the task. If we build sewage systems at the current pace, we will achieve the European targets by 2045 – 18 years after the deadline! Innovation is also needed in the areas of legislation and subsidies. The municipalities can count on financial support from the government for sewage systems, but not for alternative water treatment systems such as in Leaudegem. In addition, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are eating away at aquatic life, but there are still no relevant standards that apply to small-scale water treatment solutions. Things need to change drastically! Ledegem was open to an innovative approach and this resulted in the Leaudegem test site, where local waste water underwent an additional polishing step to remove phosphorus. We looked beyond the current standards and requirements, because we can and must do better!

The 2027 Water Framework Directive is approaching…

A successful opening

© Jonas Verbeke