Membrane-based technologies for water reuse in agriculture under the new EU Regulation 2020/741. Risk assessment, nutrient management and public acceptance – MEM4AGRI

MEM4AGRI aims at studying the application of the new EU Regulation 2020/741 of the European Parliament and of the Council on minimum requirements for water reuse to membrane-based technologies, which are able to obtain reclaimed water and nutrients from wastewater, in line with the Circular Economy (CE) principles. The new legislative framework establishes physico-chemical and microbiological requirements for water quality and states the obligation of developing a comprehensive Risk Management Plan (RMP) in order to guarantee an appropriate use of reclaimed water while protecting health and the environment. Although the Regulation 2020/741 suggests to follow existing international guidance, such as ISO 20426:2018 Guidelines for health risk assessment and management for non-potable water reuse, ISO 16075:2015 Guidelines for treated wastewater use for irrigation projects, or World Health Organisation Guidelines for the elaboration of the RMP, no standard methodology is specified. Therefore, the main objective of this project is to elaborate a clear methodology for RMP development and to test it in a real case study in Oliva WWTP.

To this aim, the performance of two membrane-based pilot plants for urban wastewater treatment will be assessed: a conventional treatment based on activated sludge coupled to ultrafiltration membranes (AS+UF) and an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR), an innovative treatment technology. These technologies will be evaluated from a technological, economic and environmental perspective which will elucidate pollutants removal capability of the treatments, economic balance of the whole water reuse system (including net energy balances, potential savings in mineral fertiliser expenditure, investment needs, etc.) and impact of fertigation. Collected data will provide the information to determine the key elements to be considered for the RMP.

Finally, farmers and consumers acceptance with respect to the benefits of the use of reclaimed water for agriculture will be addressed as a key factor for boosting water reclamation. A comprehensive dissemination plan of the results of this project to different audience targets (researchers, water managers, farmers, general public, etc.) will be designed. These tasks will be supported by the Vicerrectorado de Proyección Territorial y Sociedad of the Universitat de València. Moreover, results obtained in the case-study developed in Oliva WWTP will contribute to show the benefits of water reuse in a real location, providing robust data able to reduce social and farmers’ concern related to fertigation risks and economic sustainability, respectively.

All in all, MEM4AGRI will promote water reuse while protecting environmnent and health, contributing to the implementation of the EU water policy and the transition to the CE.

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