RICHWATER, a solution for wastewater reclamation to be enhanced by WEF-CAP


The RichWater project is an initiative funded by the European Union in the framework of the Fast Track to Innovation Programme (Horizon 2020). It aims to bring together 4 European SMEs and one research centre to enable the first application and market introduction of combined wastewater treatment and reuse technology for agricultural purposes.

RichWater technology, composed of a wastewater treatment and reuse system, is an efficient solution for water scarcity problems in agriculture, a growing concern nowadays in the EU, which has significant impacts in Spain, where the agriculture consumes around 75% of the water resources. RichWater is built on the outcomes of three successful finished European research projects (PURATREAT, WACOSYS and TREAT&USE) on wastewater treatment, reuse technologies and fertigation and monitoring systems. The concept developed here is addressing a fast-growing market with a pre-commercial prototype for market demonstration.

The overall objectives of RichWater project are to:

  • Up-scaling and long term demonstration of a modular ready to market wastewater reuse system producing a pathogen-free and nutrient-rich effluent (presence of N, P,K according to crop needs).
  • Strengthen the economic competitiveness of the participating SMEs and the targeted wastewater treatment plant operators and farmers (increased turnover by 15-25 % and cost savings of 20 %).
  • Rich Water’s market introduction in the wastewater treatment sector in combination with the farming sector in Spain, Italy and Greece and later worldwide.
  • Assessment of potential benefits and risks of the near-market prototype for the environment and human health.
  • Recovery and recycling of pathogen-free water (Nearly 100% recovery rate) and nutrients (i.e. 80 % recovery rate of nitrogen and 68 % of phosphorus in the effluent) from wastewater resources in agricultural production.
  • Reducing the costs of operation and maintenance with a special focus on reaching low energy costs for water treatment (max. 1 kwh/m3).
  • Reduction of freshwater and fertilizer consumption in water scarce areas of the Mediterranean, as well as the environmental impacts of untreated wastewater.
  • Supporting SMEs to develop green economy products and boost economic growth and job creation in EU.

The technology developed in RichWater project is a ready to market advanced of the Treat&Use system a successful EU research project (FP7) approaching the safe and economic reuse of wastewater in agricultural production. RichWater technoly is based on the complementary action of 4 modules:

  • Wastewater treatment: the core is an adapted low-cost MBR water treatment system, which provides a safe but nutrient rich effluent adequate for irrigation.
  • Monitoring and control unit: soil sensors are placed in the root zone, constantly analyziong moisture content and nutrient concentration. The data is digitalized and transferred to the Automatic Monitoring and Control Station.
  • Mixing unit: the mixing module ensure demand driven irrigation adoptoing the appropriate concentration of nutrients by mixing clear water and treated wastewater according to the information received from the monitoring module.
  • Fertigation station: the irrigation unit is integrated in the system so that the effluent of the MBR con be directly used in agriculture with an adapted technology optimized for the use of treated wastewater.

A highly professional and complementary consortium has been brought together for RichWater project. The lead partner of the project is the Spanish organization BIOAZUL and includes five partner organizations from Germany (ISITEC and TTZ), Austria (PESSL), Spain (CSIC-IHSM) and the United Kingdom (SMS). The 5 RichWater partners bring their own expertise for the design and construction of the different components of RichWater system: BIOAZUL for the MBR module, CSIC-IHSM for the fertigation module, TTZ for the mixing unit, PESSL for the monitoring module and the provision of soil sensors, and ISITEC for the control module. Each of these technology providers has successfully developed several innovative technologies in his area of expertise waste water treatment, irrigation, sensor technology, automation and control.

As a relevant experience and example of good practice, RichWater is expected to be highlighted by WEF – CAP in upcoming discussions and workshops related to good policy development.

More information about the project can be found here.

RichWater developed a video that is available here.