Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023 – Winners

Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023

The Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023 was awarded at our Knowledge Exchange Day, which took place on the 20 Oct 2023, in Brussels, Belgium to The Catalan Water Agency (Spain) for their scheme “Indirect potable water reuse in the Llobregat river, Barcelona”.

Barcelona city and its surrounding area, with a population of 5 million, is situated within the Catalan River Basin District (NE Spain), a region characterised by a Mediterranean climate that faces water scarcity and periodic droughts. For nearly three years now, this area has been struggling with an unprecedented and remarkably persistent drought. The management of this challenging scenario involves a range of measures aimed at curbing consumption and diversifying water sources. Notably, supplemental resources such as seawater desalination and water reuse have taken on prominent roles, culminating in the recent implementation of indirect potable water reuse, beginning in late 2022.

Among the principal water sources for Barcelona is the Llobregat River, which flows through one of Europe’s most densely industrialised and heavily populated basins. In November 2022, a significant milestone was reached with the introduction of reclaimed water into the Llobregat River, eight kilometres upstream from the Barcelona drinking water treatment plant. The dilution ratio has been progressively increased, currently standing at approximately 1:1, involving an equal blend of reclaimed water and river water.

This measure is an integral component of the Catalan Drought Plan, launched by the Catalan Water Agency, specifically designed for scenarios of exceptional water scarcity. Its execution has been carefully developed over the past years, including a pilot test conducted in 2019. At that time, a comprehensive monitoring was undertaken to assess chemical and microbiological hazards across the water treatment process, the river, and the final drinking water. This encompassed the evaluation of 376 micropollutants as well as common microbiological indicators. These results showed the feasibility of the project. They also allowed for the improvement of the inspection of industrial discharges into the sanitation network, prioritising certain chemical compounds that were found to be recalcitrant to treatment. The present success of the initiative owes a great deal to the insights gained from this preparatory test.

Overall, this initiative provides an invaluable water resource during a period of severe scarcity, at a moderate financial cost. Its contribution represents 15% of the overall regional urban water demand. The overall operation and maintenance (O&M) cost is approximately 0,20 € per cubic meter of pumped reclaimed water (excl. VAT).

One distinctive feature of this project is that it does not rely on advanced reclamation treatments. Instead, it relies on the exhaustive treatment train already employed in the drinking water treatment plant. Hence, the significance of the monitoring conducted in 2019, aimed at assessing the overall efficiency of the entire treatment process (WWTP — Reclamation — River buffer — DWTP). The energy consumption of the reuse segment of the scheme is also moderate. Numerous communication campaigns have been undertaken, and the initiative is frequently featured in the local press and on TV, garnering a positive public reception.

One of the novelties of this initiative is the inclusion of an ecological line of risk assessment in the evaluation of indirect water reuse, which has been formerly almost exclusively based on human health for many other initiatives so far. In this case, the concept of “One Health” according to the UN requirements is applied. This means that both the possible effect on aquatic life when reclaimed water was discharged into the Llobregat River, and water treatment and supply to urban area are analysed, with special attention paid to micropollutants of emerging concern and disinfection by-products when reused water was chlorinated.

The Catalan Water Agency, the river basin public authority that works at the Catalan River Basin District (NE Spain), leads and funds this initiative.

Top – Jordi Molist and Antoni Munné, The Catalan Water Agency (Spain) winners of the Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023.

Bottom – Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023 Finalists and Winner – From left to right: Giorgio Mannina (Parlermo University, Italy), Myriam Kellou (Treewater, France), – Jordi Molist and Antoni Munné (Catalan Water Agency, Spain).

The finalists of the Water Reuse Europe 2023 Innovation Prize were:

  • Boosting Water Reuse by the demonstration case study of Water Resource Recovery Facility – Palermo University, Sicily.
  • Indirect potable water reuse in the Llobregat river, Barcelona – Catalan Water Agency, Spain.
  • ELECTROTATE: An eco-innovative process for treating and recycling industrial effluents – Treewater, France.

To learn more about our 2023 finalists, visit our 2023 Innovation Prize page here.

About The Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize

With this award, Water Reuse Europe wants to recognise the professionals who are breaking new ground in developing solutions to address the water supply challenges of today and tomorrow across Europe.

Every two years, we look for innovative and impactful initiatives which are at the forefront of water reuse practice in Europe.

Our innovation prize rewards initiatives that demonstrate excellence in addressing our current/future water supply challenges through water reuse whether from technological, governance, educational or societal perspectives.

Past winners

  • 2017 – Aquabio (UK) for the Bakkavor Cucina Sano WWRP Scheme, Boston, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom – Elevating Water Reuse to New Heights in the Food Processing Industry.
  • 2019 – The Mörbylånga Municipality (Sweden) for the Indirect Potable Reuse Scheme in Mörbylånga, Sweden.
  • 2021– Águas do Tejo Atlântico for the project “VIRA – Turn Concept and minds“, Portugal.

For more information about our Innovation Prize, please contactinfo@water-reuse-europe.org.