The 4KET4Reuse project aims to develop innovative technologies to eliminate effluent ECs from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and thus ensure the safe reuse of these waters. Although the international guidelines or recommendations on reuse do not consider these ECs implicitly (due to the actual lack of knowledge of their levels in the environment and harmful effects), the demand for high quality water for increasingly precise uses in industry or for the society, require the development of treatment technologies that can remove this type of contaminants.
Hence the importance of this project, especially in areas with scarce water resources, increasingly common in the SUDOE territory due to the effect of climate change. This is the specific case of Andalusia, which has in its territory extremely arid areas, such as Almeria, which in turn concentrates a large agricultural activity (in greenhouse), with great demand for water.
More than 70% of the water resources in the Mediterranean region are used in agriculture.
The sustainability of the system is therefore based on the recovery of both urban and industrial wastewater and thus achieving equilibrium in the water balance. This is not only a local problem, it is also affecting the other participating regions (Languedoc-Roussillon and Lisbon), albeit to a lesser degree. In fact, more than 70% of the water resources in the Mediterranean region are used in agriculture (European Environment Agency, 2016 - http://www.eea.europa.eu (aced. 2016-04-18). This is a common challenge for all participating regions.
On the other hand, the development of these technological solutions will enable the participating regions to position themselves at the forefront of innovation in water treatment and elimination of ECs. The 4KET4Reuse project wants the knowledge generated not to be retained in the academy, but to penetrate the market of the participating regions, for example through spin-offs or start-ups and therefore having a direct economic impact on the population. And this is an essential aspect, especially in regions such as Andalusia, with unemployment rates of 36% (more than 50% unemployment among young people under 25) where it is necessary to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The sustainability of the system is based on achieving stability in the water balance.
The term emergent contaminants (EC) is generally used to refer to compounds of various origins and chemical nature, whose presence in the environment is not considered significant in terms of distribution and / or concentration, and therefore they are not noticed. However, they are now being widely detected and have the potential to develop an ecological impact as well as adverse health effects (Barceló D. and López M.J., 2007; Stuart M. et al., 2012). Among the ECs present in the water, we can highlight drugs, per fluorinated compounds, hormones, drugs, and personal care products.
These contaminants are concentrated in variable concentrations throughout the SUDOE space, being, therefore, a generalized environmental problem. For example, Andreu V. et al. (2016) detected levels of ibuprofen and codeine of 4.8 and 1.2 ng / L with maximums of 59 ng / L and 63 ng / L, respectively, in Mediterranean wetlands. Lolic et al. (2015), for their part, detected traces of acetaminophen, ketoprofen, hydroxybuprofen and carboxyibuprofen in maximum concentrations of 584, 89.7, 287 and 1227ng / L in the waters of the north coast of Portugal, respectively. The main source of these compounds into the aquatic environment are wastewater, although agriculture and livestock are also contaminated with pesticides and antibiotics, respectively. In most cases their disposal at conventional wastewater treatment plants is not complete.
Nowadays, there are new and more effective technologies for its elimination, from the most well-known ones such as the membrane bioreactors to others of greater cost like reverse osmosis, the microfiltration or the processes of advanced oxidation. However, the application of this type of technology supposes a high cost in the treatment of water that still few companies that manage water services are willing to assume. Moreover, with these technologies a complete mineralization of the contaminant (production of more harmful secondary metabolites) is not achieved at all. Therefore, it is necessary to look for new techniques that allow, on the one hand, to completely degrade these organic compounds and, on the other hand, reduce the costs of regeneration associated with the treatment of residual water for its subsequent reuse.
This is the main object of the 4KET4Reuse project.