SuWaNu: Sustainable Water treatment and Agricultural reuse options in Europe
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. Overabstraction 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. Therefore, the re-use of “reclaimed water” (i.e. treated wastewater) can be an alternative water resource for agriculture.
Treated wastewater is underused in many water scarce regions due to several technical and non-technical obstacles. This leads to an inefficient situation where, on the one hand the agricultural sector is highly demanding water, and on the other hand, the water treatment sector is producing water and nutrients which are discharged to the environment.
There are numerous initiatives related to the development and implementation of a wide range of sustainable solutions for agriculture management which include water reuse options. However, the practical situation on ground is nearly unchanged and the maximum potential of water and nutrients reuse is not exploited yet as we can conclude from the low rates of reuse in many EU countries compared with the volume of treated water produced (i.e. only 2.4% of wastewater is treated and reused in Europe ).
Despite the relevant scientific work in water reuse, the lack of interaction and teamwork between stakeholders or the insufficient dissemination channels and materials have not led to an effective knowledge transfer. SuWaNu Europe is intended to act as a catalyst to stimulate and boost the knowledge exchange between stakeholders. With this purpose, SuWaNu Europe will create a network of experts, farmers, water operators and engineers, consumers, authorities, researchers, agricultural advisory groups, and other actors, and facilitate the exchange of information and practical knowledge related to water reuse in agriculture.
SuWaNu Europe will summarize, share and present existing and upcoming knowledge and skills with potential for innovation in the field of water reuse in agriculture. This work will be compiled in fact-sheets of good practices identified, “Info-packages” and practice abstracts. This material is intended to provide practical knowledge adapted to different target groups (with special focus on practitioners) in a way which is easy to understand. The 6 info-packages (IPs) will consist of a set of 30 fact sheets. Moreover, 100 practice abstracts will summarize main project results and will be available in the EIP-Agri project data base. In all cases, the material will be developed to train the stakeholders identified with knowledge and skills that support implementation of innovative solutions.
SuWaNu Europe has been conceived as a “multi-actor” initiative with the involvement of relevant and complementary stakeholders from 10 countries such as research centres, companies from water and agricultural services, development agencies, farmers, water and consumers associations, and NGOs. This variety of institutions and skills brings complementary knowledge on different topics: crop farming and irrigation, water treatment, legal issues, economic aspects, consumers perspective, etc.
Regional Working Groups will lead to the creation of multi-actor clusters with an interest to broadly implement water reuse solutions. Engagement of local actors will create the seed for further training activities using the project materials. Indeed, these activities will be planned during the project in the Regional Action Plans. Therefore, there will be a strategy of continuation activities once the project ends.
Moreover, fact-sheets and other materials produced during the project (e.g. practices abstracts, videos, leaflets, etc.) will be available in the consortium partners web sites in the long-term (also the project web-site will be maintained at least during 3 years after the project ends). Likewise, the project will make available the training materials in networks that are usually accessed by practitioners. This includes international networks such as EIP-Agri, WIRE, WssTP, ERIAFF, EUFRAS, etc. but also regional networks more accessible to local practitioners such as farmers associations and cooperatives, water associations, etc. The continuity of results is also ensured by the creation of on-line courses that will be uploaded in e-learning platforms for MOOCs such as Coursera, Moddle, EDX, Udacity or Open Classrooms. The courses will be maintained in the e-learning platforms at least during 5 years after the project ends. Stakeholders training in the project results will be also carried out through 8 workshops in the target regions bringing experts within and outside the consortium. The objective is to reach 400 farmers in the training activities.
The SuWaNu is a European project funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Programme- CSA – Coordination and support actions under the Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy Work programme.
Bioazul S. L. (Spain), Federacion Nacional de Comunidades de Regantes (Spain), Asociación Española de Reutilización Sostenible del Agua (ASERSA) (Spain), Universidad de Cordoba (Spain), Verein zur Förderung des Technologietransfers an der Hochschule Bremerhaven e. V (Germany), Abwasserverband Braunschweig (Germany), Development agency of thessaloniki s.a. (Greece), Aristotelio Panepistimio Thessalonikis (Greece), Agraren Universitet of plovdiv (Bulgaria), Confederazione Generale dell Agricoltura Italiana (Italy), Universita degli Studi di Torino (Italy), Canale Emiliano Romagnolo (Italy), MEKOROT water company limited (Israel), CONSULAI-Consultoria Agro Industriatrial IDA (Portugal), FENAREG-Federacao Nacional de Regantes de Portugal (Portugal), University of cyprus (Cyprus), Agricultural Chamber of Cyprus (Cyprus), Ecofilae (France), Confederación (de ámbito estatal) de Consumidores y Usuarios (Spain), Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt (Belgium).
Rafael Casielles (BIOAZUL S.L.)
R&D Project Manager at Bioazul, Spain