FlexTreat – Flexible and Reliable Concepts for Sustainable Water Reuse in Agriculture

FlexTreat – Flexible and Reliable Concepts for Sustainable Water Reuse in Agriculture

7th September 2023 feature news newsletter 0


FlexTreat – A German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funded project. 

Project Goals 

The aim of the FlexTreat Project is the development and demonstration of flexible treatment systems for water reuse that are adapted to agricultural irrigation requirements for a secure and reliable irrigation water supply, but also cover extended quality requirements as are expected to be introduced within the German legislation, such as micropollutant removal. 

The project therefore focusses on finding synergies in four conventional high-tech or nature based advanced treatment systems when combined with disinfection technologies (see Fig.1). The evaluation herein is based on a broad spectrum of physico-chemical water quality parameters, micropollutants and transformation products (target and non-target methods), microbiological indicators, antibiotic resistances (bacteria and genome analyses). 

Fig. 1: The four FlexTreat-sites and their technologies for advanced waste water treatment 

The acquired process and quality data from four pilot sites are used for process optimisation, but also support further work packages. Besides closer looks at quality related questions on the chemical as well as the microbiological side, the project also investigates the mobility and distribution of micropollutants within water, soil and crops. Advanced analytical methods such as qPCR are used for antibiotic resistances. Salt management is another part of project. The results are distilled into an evaluation of the four pilot technologies and complemented by Life Cycle Assessments. 

Another work package focuses on Digital Green Tech, where one of the pilot plants is doubled in a digital twin, data is fitted through AI and machine learning approaches and used for process optimization. The system is connected to a user app that was developed for the communication between farmers, water treatment facilities and other stakeholders.  

The projects results shall be summarised in concise fact sheets that shall serve as a quick overview on quality related questions regarding water reuse for agricultural irrigation, potentially supporting the then expected German legislation and giving hints to risk management related questions. 

Furthermore, stakeholder interviews and questionnaires will show the current acceptance of such applications in Germany and knowledge shall be applied to several international case studies (Spain, Egypt, Qatar) to gain an understanding on the transferability of the results. 

Project Status 

All four sites are in operation since at least January 2022. Sampling has been carried out regularly and online process data is collected in real time. Several different settings have been tested in order to find suitable operation windows to securely meet the EU ordinances requirements on water quality. All four sites have generally shown to be able to reach EU-Class A. The project aims to now find economic settings for such quality. Especially concerning microbiological requirements, the log-removal validation of the applied technologies is of great interested and is deeply investigated within the project. 

A publicly accessible project meeting allowed for an exchange with local farmers and gave them space to share their concerns about water reuse from a user point of view. Polls and interviews also show that while transposition of the EU ordinance into German law is pending, financial aspects still seem to be a concern for the realisation of more reuse practises in Germany. Quality concerns are mentionable but not the biggest concern within these polls. Overall, communication between politics, farmers, engineers and science should be improved. 


With increasing data density, now, the work on evaluation work packages has begun and first results are being published. For further information feel free to visit www.flextreat.de or contact us directly. 


Max Zimmermann


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