Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023 – Finalists Announced

Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023 – Finalists Announced

5th October 2023 news 0


We are thrilled to announce the three finalists of the Water Reuse Europe Innovation Prize 2023:

Boosting Water Reuse by the demonstration case study of Water Resource Recovery Facility (Palermo University, Sicily).


Water reuse from treated wastewater contributes significantly to achieving global carbon neutrality. A circular economy approach can also recover resources from wastewater treatment (i.e., carbon, nutrients, bioplastics, etc.). Despite such potentialities, only few real case studies exist, especially in the Mediterranean region, where there is a clear need due to water shortage and very high potential agriculture demand. The main causes are technological, social, legislative and organisational barriers. A possible solution to overcome such barriers is a robust and comprehensive roadmap which may lead to the transition from a linear to a circular economy model in the water sector. Policy makers play a central role but not only; indeed, for an effective transition, there is the need to educate the young generation about the importance of water reuse and resource recovery. With that respect, efforts have been made within the European “Project Wider-Uptake: Achieving wider uptake of smart water solutions“, with the devlopment of the first Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) on a university campus, Palermo University, Italy.

The WRRF is constituted of different elements: an innovative pumping station for the collection and transport of wastewater produced on the campus; three pilot plants for i) water reuse and sludge minimisation, ii) biopolymer production as polyhydroxyalkanoates and iii) a column system to recover nitrogen and phosphorus; underground piping for treated wastewater transfer and subsequent irrigation of green areas; resource recovery lab for chemical-physical analyses; greenhouse for water reuse experimentation on plant in vessels; storage for reuse and irrigation system for green tanks.

The resource recovery system conceived at Palermo University in the frame of WIDER-UPTAKE is a great opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of innovative solutions in the wastewater sector to overcome the existing barriers to their wider implementation, thus promoting the implementation of the circular economy concept. Indeed, the opportunity to involve students/younger generation from the educational programs is of paramount importance to foster the transition to a circular economy in the water sector. Universities may have a central role in this transition and promote sustainable water-smart solutions for achieving a higher environmental sustainability level in the future.

ELECTROTATE: An eco-innovative process for treating and recycling industrial effluents (Treewater, France).


Industrial activities have a big impact on water resources, on quantity as well as quality. In France, in 2015, nearly 2800 million cubic meters of water was used by industries. With global warming, water shortages should increase by up to 50% in 2030 in Europe. One of the best solutions to address this issue is water reuse, but in France only 0.6% of wastewater is recycled. Advanced oxidation process may be an additional solution for wastewater treatment and water reuse in an industrial setting. Those processes allow to form reactive radical species that can degrade organic molecules. Those processes are particularly efficient to treat biorecalcitrants. In addition, advanced oxidation processes have a small footprint, require short treatment time and depending on the type of advanced oxidation process used, can compete with other technologies in terms of costs efficiency.

However, electrochimical oxidation processes, have, for now, limited feedback at a pilot and industrial scale despite being a promising technology. ElectRotate is an innovative water treatment process, developed by Treewater, that would allow answering the challenges of electrochimical advanced oxidation processes for water treatment. That process allows a shift in paradigm by rotating micro-electrochimical cells directly in the treatment tank instead of using a pump to send water to a static electroliser. The targeted industrial effluents include effluents from the pharmaceutical as well as the pulp and paper industry. ElectRotate is also particularly adapted to water treatment in agro-industrials process as it could be very efficient for pesticides degradation and provide very good disinfection as well.

As part of the Electrotate project, performed in collaboration with the Deep Insa laboratory in Lyon and the GEPEA in La Roche sur Yon, Treewater aims to:
  • Optimise the ElectRotate process by playing on the key operating parameters (inter-electrode distance, rotational speed, applied electric current and ratio of working electrode surface to treated volume) in real effluents and scale-up;
  • Evaluate the matrix effect on process efficiency (presence of radical inhibitors, salt concentration, etc.,;
  • Develop a model capable of predicting the degradation of organic pollutants in a given matrix by ElectRotate treatment;
  • Evaluate the ecotoxicity and biodegradability of treated effluents, in particular with regard to by-products formed during electrolysis

The overall objective is to achieve an energy consumption significantly lower than current technologies and reduction of at least 90% of target pollutants.

Indirect potable water reuse in the Llobregat river, Barcelona (Catalan Water Agency, Spain).


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 kilometers 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.

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



Watch this space for the announcement of our 2023 winner!

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