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In Memoriam: Arjen Hoekstra 1967 - 2019

It is with shock and dismay that we received the completely unexpected news of the death of Arjen Hoekstra on the 18th November. He was only 52 years old.

From 2005, Arjen Hoekstra was Professor of Water Management at the University of Twente and Chair of the Department of Multidisciplinary Water Management. He had studied Civil Engineering and obtained a doctoral degree in the area of policy analysis from Delft University of Technology. Hoekstra had lived in Asia and Africa as well as Europe, and had built a broad international network. He led a variety of interdisciplinary research projects and acted as an adviser to diverse governments, social organisations, companies and multilateral institutions such as UNESCO and the World Bank. Hoekstra was the receiver of many awards, including an ERC Advanced Grant, Europe’s most prestigious research award.  

Hoekstra invented the concept of the water footprint. He introduced ‘chain thinking’ into water management, and pioneered the quantification of water use behind internationally traded goods, by which he demonstrated the relevance of a global perspective in the areas of water use and water scarcity.

Hoekstra laid the basis for the interdisciplinary field Water Footprint Assessment, which deals with the relation between water management, consumption and trade. In order to translate theory into practice he set up the Water Footprint Network, an international network of researchers and practitioners that strives for more sustainable and equitable water use worldwide.

Arjen Hoekstra was one of the most cited researchers in his field in the world. His publications covered a broad range of subjects in the field of water, food production, energy and trade. His books have been translated into different languages and include The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer SocietyThe Water Footprint Assessment Manual and Globalization of Water. Hoekstra taught courses on various subjects, including sustainable development, water management, river basin management, hydrology, water quality, water assessment, evaluating natural resources, analysis of environmental systems, and policy analysis. He developed a variety of educational instruments, including the River Basin Game and the Globalization of Water Role Play.

His colleagues will remember him as a highly committed man, always engaged with developments in his field and socially involved. He had an open mind and was interested in other cultures, visiting many different countries from the time he was a student.

Arjen had an appointment as visiting lecturer at the National University of Singapore, and spent a number of weeks there every summer.

Straightforward, sharp witted, plain spoken and working based on trust are expressions that characterise Arjen. What’s more, he liked to give people freedom. The social actor of the group. He did his work in his ‘sustainable office’, a green oasis filled with plants.  

Arjen’s death fills us with sorrow, and we wish his wife, children, family and friends great courage in coming to terms with such an enormous loss. It is also a great loss for scientific research in the field of water management and sustainability. His memory will always live on with us.

On Wednesday a book of condolence will be placed in the hall of the Horst building to be signed by anyone who would like to do so. The book of condolence will later be presented to his family. There's also a digital condolence form.

drs. J.G.M. van den Elshout (Janneke)
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