Rafael Casielles is explaining how RichWater is being produced on the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Algarrobo. Photo: Water News Europe.
In the European project Richwater communal wastewater is treated in a membrane bioreactor (MBR) to provide nutritious irrigation water for farmers. In the installation all pathogens are removed but the nutrients nitrogen and phosphor remain in the water. “This water can be compared with a Ferrari for farmers”, said Antiona Lorenzo from engineering agency BioAzul on Tuesday the 6th of May during an excursion on the production plant in Algarobbo in Spain.
Local farmers, scientists, technology developers and water providers gathered on the test field that is located next to the communal waste water treatment plant (WWTP) of the Spanish town Algarrabo. Scientists from the institute of subtropical fruit La Mayora are investigating if using Richwater is affecting the quality of the crops. In a field of mango trees a part of the trees is irrigated with normally treated waste water and part of the crop is treated with Richwater.
The treated wastewater contains more salt, but in this stage of the study it appears this is not affecting the trees. “But more investigation is needed”, said scientist Remedios Romero. The test field is operational since august 2017. It is too early to implement this on local plantations, because we need to further investigate the effects. RichWater will also be tested on crops of tomatoes and avocados.
Project leader Rafael Casielles of BioAzul explained the regenerating technology has many advantages. It can help saving water and diminish the amount of chemical fertilisers. Therefore using regenerated wastewater will diminish environmental pollution and contribute to a circular economy.
The quality of waste water is not always the same. ‘We saw a difference of the composition after New Years Eve, but we have no clue why it was different’, stated Romero. Before irrigation the regenerated waste water is continuously analysed. If some nutrients are absent they are manually added by employees of La Mayora. Thanks to this procedure Richwater has a guaranteed quality.
What the price of Richwater per cubic metre will be, is still unclear. In a few months’ time BioAzul will be able to make calculations based on the entire process. RichWater started in February 2016 and will end in July 2018. The budget is 2,1 million euro.