Call for Proposals: Water reuse and water desalination for agricultural and food production

The challenge is to provide end-users with new more economically feasible water treatment technologies, taking into account the main environmental, socio-economic and legal and/or institutional constraints regulating the adoption of these technologies.
Applications are closed
a year ago

PRIMA-IS is launching a call for research and innovation (RIA) proposals to mobilize the Euro-Mediterranean scientific communities, stakeholders and private entities and to support a wide range of research and innovation projects expected to produce a socio-economic impact in the near future.

In this call, participation of private entities is strongly encouraged.

Participants to this call will have to submit a scientific proposal to the PRIMA-IS, that will be evaluated in a peer review process according to the H2020 standard. The successful projects will be funded directly by the PRIMA-IS through the signature of a grant agreement between the selected consortia and the PRIMA-IS. The criteria for the evaluation, selection and monitoring of the project will be done according to H2020 rules. PRIMA-IS will be responsible for the evaluation of proposals. Participation of private entities (in their diversity, e.g. including companies/enterprises, SMEs, start-ups, non-profit organisations, NGOs…) will be encouraged in the research consortia, jointly with public research organisations, universities and end-users.

Challenge

In a scenario where the fresh water available for agriculture and food processing industries is not enough to cover the current demand and additional gains in the water use efficiency are difficult to achieve, re-using water for multiple purposes is a possible solution. The challenge, in this sense, is to provide end-users with new more economically feasible water treatment technologies, taking into account the main environmental, socio-economic and legal and/or institutional constraints regulating the adoption of these technologies.

Scope

The reuse of wastewater is one of the main options available for water-supply decision-makers in the field of a sustainable water and soil management, of agri-food chain production and agriculture. However, in the Mediterranean, water reuse faces numerous barriers. Among them, regulatory, safety risks, economic including energy concerns and social acceptance can be currently defined as the main barriers considering that

  1. safety risks (environment, human health) have been linked to the use of improperly treated wastewater;
  2. treatment costs particularly linked to the energy and
  3. public acceptance of reclaimed water varied according to its potential use.

In addition, in the Mediterranean area treated wastewaters usually have the drawback of their salinity levels, which might limit the mid, long-term crop productivity. As a consequence, energy-efficient desalinization and other treatments, comprising technological and nature-based solutions (NBS), should be developed for treating both wastewater from municipal and industrial use.

The seawater desanilization is an important source of water resources in certain areas of the Mediterranean region. Issues regarding the disposal and treatment of brines after seawater or wastewater treatment should be considered to ensure a low impact of water treatment on the environment, or in the fishery practices.

On the other hand, treated wastewater can be also a source of nutrients, particularly for crop production, which should be better valorised and wastewater treatment technologies able to selectively maintain important macro-nutrients should be promoted. Innovative technologies, including those based on bioengineering and advanced materials such as nano-materials, and techniques like NBS and ecosystem-based approaches, may be developed to increase energy efficiency  reduce pollutants loads including pathogens and emergent pollutants (i.e. pharmaceutical residues), in order to produce water of appropriate quality regarding the uses.

For irrigation, appropriate practices and techniques should also promoted to ensure good water reuse applications conditions at field level, to avoid clogging of drip irrigation systems and soil degradation. In addition, wastewater treatment techniques have to be developed not only for a direct reuse of water for agriculture, but also for an indirect use, considering hybrid approach including aquifer storage recovery.

The recharge of reclaimed water into the subsoil can be considered as an additional treatment, reducing the cost and energy needs. Recharge into coastal aquifers may be considered as a hydraulic barrier against salt water intrusion. Finally, multidisciplinary studies should be enriched by analysing the economic and environmental suitability of the current implementation of the system, taking also into account the agronomic and food processing validation needed for its implementation, as well as the public acceptance.

Under this proposed multi-actor approach, different type of entities should be involved in the proposals; industrial entities (including SMEs) should play an important role, having a great potential for further replication and market uptake of the solutions developed. Innovative development of circular economy (i.e. zero waste concept, nutrients reuse) could also be proposed in the field of agro food chain production, considering the recycling of production water, in terms of quantity and quality.

Expected impact

Depending on the specific approach to be defined by the submitted proposal, one or several of the specific expected impacts should be achieved:

  • Increasing the quantity, quality and safety of non-conventional water use for agriculture and food processing (direct use and indirect use of reclaimed water, i.e. artificial recharge, aquifer storage recovery approach)
  • Increasing the efficiency of water management systems with particular regard to energy and water smart infrastructures
  • Decreasing the cost of treating wastewater and, particularly, desalination by using more energy-efficient processes
  • Obtaining socio-economic, environmental (soil conservation in particular) and technical information to influence Mediterranean countries policies in terms of wastewater use
  • Deriving new solutions for brine disposal considering a holistic approach for desalination water.

Dateline for submission: 17th April, 2018 (17:00h CET)

Source: PRIMA

Illustration Photo: Olive trees near the sea in Lesvos island, Greece (credits: Oleve Family Estate and Products  / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0))

 

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