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RichWater

In recent years a growing concern has been expressed throughout the EU regarding water scarcity and the significant impacts on water resources by agricultural activities. Over abstraction of water from surface and groundwater bodies is a significant pressure in some areas of Europe and may be driven by wider problems of scarce water resources and increased by climate change. Especially in Southern Europe, water scarcity already leads to severe conflicts between different water users. In some Mediterranean areas, irrigation water is estimated to account for up to 80% of total water abstraction. Besides the difficulties regarding freshwater, the European agricultural sector is facing serious issues strongly linked to other exploited resources such as nutrient availability, the concurrent growing demand for food and biofuels and an increase of extreme weather events due to climate change. Simultaneously, huge amounts of nutrient-rich wastewater run untreated and unused in our surface water bodies causing environmental damages (e.g. eutrophication or groundwater pollution) and health risks. Wastewater has a huge fertigation potential in agriculture.
However, due to strict health regulations only a small part of all produced municipal wastewater in Europe is used for irrigation in agriculture (in Spain only about 20% of the total treated wastewater amount). One of the major problems in Southern Europe is the fact that many water scarce regions are producers of water rich products such as vegetables and fruits. Therefore, the re-use of “reclaimed water” (i.e. treated wastewater) can be an alternative water resource for agriculture. Several highly innovative water solutions focusing on water reuse in agriculture are under development. The technology presented here, RichWater, is an ugpraded technology from the Treat&Use system, a successful EU research project (FP7) approaching the safe and economic reuse of wastewater in agricultural production (GA no. 311943).

Developed by BIOAZUL S.L.

RichWater is a modular technology reclaiming water from domestic/urban wastewater for combined irrigation and fertlisation purpose. The system allows to produce high quality effluent meeting the regulatory standards for irrigation of crops to be consumed by humans while preserving the content of nutrients relevant for the fertilization effect. The complete system is composed of four modules: i) wastewater treatment module consisting of a Membrane Bioreactor; ii) mixing unit; iii) fertigation module; and iv) control and monitoring unit.

TRL5. Laboratory testing of integrated system
Technology validated in relevant environment. Fidelity of breadboard technology increases significantly. The basic technological components are integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so they can be tested in a simulated environment. Examples include “high-fidelity” laboratory integration of components. The technology has been tested and validated in an operational environment. The test site is a field with a greenhouse and several irrigation sector where several crops have been irrigated with RichWater effluent. Agronomic studies have been performed to proof the validity of the solution. Finally, the final version tested is the one that it is going to be commercialized.

See more information about this level and the TRL and SRL levels.

The main components of the system have been tested separately, and an initial integration exercise has been conducted.

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Collaborators

How does it work?

RichWater treatment system is based on a compact Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) for wastewater treatment. The design of the MBR has been adapted to the use of the effluent for irrigation of crops. The design of the RichWater treatment system allows to produce high quality effluent free of pathogens by the use of Ultrafiltration membranes while maintaining optimal content level of nutrients adapting the biological processes. The MBR is assembled to a mixing unit where the MBR effluent is mixed with clear water and a minimum amount of fertilisers according to the crop demands. The mixing unit is assembled to an irrigation system (i.e. fertigation module) which distributes the nutrient rich mixture of reclaimed water and clear water to the crops.

Limitations/conditions under which this innovation does not work or is less effective

RichWater is designed to meet very stringent standards in water quality. However, in some countries the use of treated wastewater in agriculture is not allowed regardless the quality level of the effluent. Therefore, regulations to enable wastewater reuse is a necessary condition to use the technology. In addition, the technology has to be adapted to the nutrients content allowed by legislation in each country.

Added value
RichWater technology enables to optimize the use of water and nutrients in agriculture. On the one hand, it achieves water quality for the effluent beyond legal standards. This is verified by an external body through the ETV verification programme. Therefore, RichWater guarantees that crops irrigated with treated wastewater will not be contaminated with undesired pollutants. On the other hand, RichWater enables a control in the nutrients contained in the treated water optimizing the savings of fertilizer for farmers and reducing the environmental impacts of contaminating ground water with an excess of nutrients.

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