Looking Forward To 2019: the INNOQUA Project Reaches the Midpoint

Posted: Monday 25th March 2019

Two years have passed since Aqua Enviro joined forces with 19 other project partners to form the INNOQUA consortium – a modular suite of nature-based on-site wastewater treatment systems.

In that time, the partners been working hard to provide accessible, affordable and sustainable waste water solutions in rural environments. Reaching the halfway point in the four-year project, it is time to look back at what has been achieved in the past two years, and what the future holds for this groundbreaking project.

Globally about 2.5 billion people are still without safe sanitation facilities. It is an ongoing battle to try to balance safe, accessible sanitation, while also considering the environmental impact. Population growth and migration into cities is placing huge pressure on sanitation infrastructure and water resources. This calls for innovative, low-impact waste water treatment solutions that allow safe water re-use in horticulture and farming.

INNOQUA, an EU-funded project through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, launched in June 2016 to answer the growing need for protection and improvement of natural water resources utilising an innovative, modular suite of sustainable waste water treatment technologies.

These technologies are designed to resemble the natural purification process, facilitated by earthworms, zooplankton, and microalgae and sunlight exposure. This naturally inspired process will not only provide an accessible and affordable solution to many, but also manages to limit the environmental impact with extremely low CO2 life-cycle emissions produced by the process.

The core mission of INNOQUA is to provide safe, but sustainable, solutions.

It has been a busy year for all involved in the project, with the project partners gathering in Bangalore this January to discuss the progress, finalise designs for the different treatment modules, and view one of the sites where the technologies will be demonstrated. This follows a meeting in Girona, where partners caught up and took the time to view Girona’s pilot site at the Quart wastewater treatment plant. Here, the initial phase of INNOQUA’s pilot scheme was to test the potential for Daphnia to ‘polish’ treated waste water in bespoke reactor vessels using two Daphniafilters with different reactor designs to determine which is the best design for implementation. The project is happy to report that the Daphniafilters are working at optimal efficiency. This indicates that the project team have managed to create the ideal environmental conditions to provide maximum cleansing efficiency. This data will be used to ensure further sites achieve similar success.

Using this data, alongside that from other sites, a wealth of background research has been completed, collecting information on market drivers and wastewater treatment legislation. Time has been taken to identify and profile a range of new demonstration sites to allow our research to progress even further.

Parallel work has been underway in a pilot facility at the NUI Galway/EPA wastewater research site, where operational parameters have been investigated for the prototype Lumbrifilter technology. Different operational conditions have been applied to the Lumbrifilter to observe its performance with untreated, settled waste water – and further work is planned to explore its potential to treat whole waste water.

Looking forward to the future, the project is entering an exciting phase of pilot demonstrations in both developed and developing countries, including France, Scotland, Romania, Peru, India and Tanzania. These demonstrations are taking place in a range of institutions, from dedicated aquaculture facilities to educational establishments. Training modules have been developed, and a series of open days will be planned to allow local communities to see the technologies for themselves.

One of the initial pilots will be based at the NUI Galway/EPA wastewater research site located at the Tuam. NUI Galway is one of 20 partners in the INNOQUA project consortium. This site will be hosting a prototype Lumbrifilter technology as a secondary treatment system for municipal wastewater.

Different operational conditions will be applied to the Lumbrifilter to observe its performance under a variety of conditions, and the impact of various primary treatment options will be tested to investigate the degree to which the primary treatment processes can be simplified and the overall sludge production in the system reduced.

The focus currently is very much tailored towards data gathering and working together to decide the best ways to utilise that information.

It is a bright future for the project – making steady progress towards the mission to provide sustainable, safe wastewater treatment in hard to reach regions.

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