• The LIFE WARRIOR Project, co-financed by the LIFE program of the European Commission, will demonstrate an innovative and cost-effective water recuperation train to ensure that recovered water is safe for crop irrigation, in line with European regulationsarantizar que el agua recuperada sea segura para el riego de los cultivos, en línea con el reglamento europeo.
• Cetaqua, Water Technology Centre, leads this initiative, in which will also participate Aguas de Murcia (EMUASA) and Aquatec, both companies of the Agbar group.
Murcia is one of the territories with the greatest water stress in Spain and Europe, especially due to a situation of prolonged drought coupled with high agricultural activity. This means that the demand for water in this area is higher than the amount available. In semi-arid regions, water reuse has been shown to be the most sustainable alternative to the use of desalinated seawater and imported water in economic terms and in terms of environmental impact. However, despite its advantages, the reuse of water is still far from its maximum potential and is only practiced in certain territories of the European Union. Its high cost or demanding quality requirements, among other factors, are some of the main barriers to its application.
In this context, the European Commission created a regulatory framework in 2020 (EU 741/2020) with the aim of establishing minimum quality requirements for reclaimed water intended for agricultural irrigation. Although in Spain there was already a regulation in force for this matter, the new European directive is more restrictive and has an impact on Spanish territory, so its compliance will be mandatory from 2023.
A sustainable, cost-effective, and circular solution to guarantee the safety of reclaimed water
Faced with this situation, LIFE WARRIOR has recently been launched, a European research project that will develop and validate an innovative water recovery scheme to ensure that reclaimed water meets all the necessary requirements for crop irrigation, in line with the European regulation.
The solution proposed by this project is based on two technologies. On the one hand, reused ultrafiltration membranes from water treatment plants will be used, where they are more demanding in terms of quality than in regenerating plants.
On the other hand, a disinfection process with low energy consumption and without chemical products will be applied, consisting of ultraviolet lamps with LED technology, unlike the mercury lamps normally used. It is estimated that, thanks to the use of these technologies, the cost of treatment is reduced by 15% compared to other conventional alternatives. Likewise, the application of this solution is expected to reduce CO2 emissions from these processes by 35%.
This system will be coupled to a digital tool made up of a decision support system that will help estimate and extend the useful life of ultrafiltration membranes. The tool, which will be marketed separately, will also have a risk calculation system, with digitized health security plans. In addition, with the aim of promoting the reuse of used membranes following a circular economy model, LIFE WARRIOR will develop a platform called Re-UF Market Place, which will connect suppliers of used membranes, mainly water operators or administrations that exploit the water treatment plants, with end users.
LIFE WARRIOR solution, on test in the Nueva Sucina water treatment plant
This treatment train will be demonstrated at the Nueva Sucina treatment plant in Murcia, operated by Aguas de Murcia. The commitment of this region to the conservation of freshwater resources has allowed the reuse of more than 80% of treated municipal wastewater for crop irrigation, in line with current legislation. However, European regulations, increasingly restrictive, require a higher quality of reclaimed water and to achieve this, more sophisticated and effective technologies are necessary, as well as the development of risk assessment methodologies to guarantee its safety. In this sense, LIFE WARRIOR will make it possible to comply with the new legislation with a sustainable system in economic and environmental terms, promoting the circular economy.
This initiative is part of the LIFE financing programme, the EU financing instrument for the environment and climate action. Its consortium members have extensive experience in European research projects and have worked together before. Cetaqua, Water Technology Centre, coordinator of LIFE WARRIOR, counts with the collaboration of Aguas de Murcia (EMUASA), operator of the plant where the pilot plant will be located, and Aquatec, part of the Agbar group, which will oversee marketing the solution in urban plants.