Water affects everyone, so we need everyone to take action
World Water Day 2023: the SYMSITES commitment regarding the use of water and its sanitation
“1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year”WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity
Clean water is vital to our global health and environmental and socioeconomic needs: in Europe many ecosystems and economic sectors depend on the availability and status of it.
Groundwater provides a safe resource that can meet the demand for drinking water in industrial and urban processes and providing 60-70% of water supply for agricultural practices. However, only 3% of the worldwide water is fresh.
Thus, the efficient management of this resource and its recovery from wastewater is a key step towards a sustainable development, a real must in a context of climate change with an increasing water scarcity situation among countries.
In the EU, the Water Framework Directive (EC 2000) requires the management of groundwater bodies with the aim of achieving good chemical and quantitative status. The Water Framework Directive in the second River basin management plan (RBMP) reporting cycle (2016) indicates that 24% of the total groundwater body area in the EU-27 is of poor chemical status and 9% is of poor quantitative status.
Combining both chemical and quantitative status assessments shows that 29% of the total groundwater body area lacks sufficient capacity to meet the needs of ecosystems or society, owing to deterioration of either quality or quantity.
Reporting under the second RBMPs largely attributes the failure to have achieved good chemical status to diffuse pollution from agriculture and the failure to have achieved good quantitative status to water abstraction for irrigation (as for almost 7% of the total groundwater body area of the EU-27). Abstraction pressures are mainly found in Greece, France, Hungary, southern Italy and Spain. Two of the countries where SYMSITES is being implemented, are suffering from this extreme situation related to fresh-water availability and have an urgent need of searching for innovative solutions in water management, treatment and recovery.
While the EU environmental policy framework helps to ensure sustainable management of groundwater resources and preserve the natural ecosystems dependent on them, the implementation of policy provisions needs to be further accelerated.
In this context and among these actions, the SYMSITES project takes an active role.
Since freshwater is widely used in industrial and urban processes, it generates a high volume of wastewater with considerable organic loads and presence of other resources that can be recovered like nutrients, molecules for energy production or products valorisation. The treatment of the wastewater in WWTPs plays an important role for pollutant removal and safe disposal or reuse of the treated water.
Mainly, the objectives of the project include:
Developing innovative technologies for urban and industrial waste streams, including wastewater, that will ensure high quality provision of reclaimed water to the local regions and their urban and industrial needs.
Avoiding discharges of wastes to the environment, converting them into valuable sources that can be obtained during innovative wastewater treatment and reintroduced in the market as valorised products with a symbiosis perspective.
Concretely, the SYMSITES project design, optimize and up-scale different technologies for resource recovery from industrial and urban wastes like wastewater. One of the resources is reclaimed water, for its introduction to industrial practices, but also energy can be obtained in the wastewater treatment when applying innovative technologies like the anaerobic membrane bioreactor. Wastewater treatment consumes high amounts of energy and that is why it is important to implement technologies that have low energy requirements or that can produce alternative energy sources like biogas or hydrogen.
This issue concern all the countries involved in the project, but differences in their action can be found since their industrial activities are different.
In the Spanish Ecosite, for instance, the industries that are involved in the region are from the cosmetics and textile areas. The goal is to treat the water for meeting the requirements for their safe and feasible reuse in these industrial activities.
FACSA is one of the most involved partners in wastewater management, which is a Spanish water utility located in Castelló de la Plana that operates more than 260 WWTP in Spain treating more than 100 m3/year of this valuable resource.
What can we do in our daily lives to support this mission?
Dissemination and communication of the research updates and innovations, as well as their new implementation levels, are essential towards an effective transition for a higher protection of water and a more sustainable management of this resource.