Growing water scarcity, catalyzed by the imminent threat of climate change, requires the development of sustainable and innovative technologies to shift the paradigm of water management towards low-impact recycling without incurring major resource or energy footprints. As such, the future of sustainable agriculture is dependent on a near closed loop of treated wastewater reuse. Although the challenges of reuse implementation vary across the Mediterranean region, energy and resource efficiency during treatment are universal requirements due to the potential for greenhouse gas emissions and costs associated with energy input. This project involves the development, advancement, and application of the emerging technology known as the anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) for unrestricted wastewater reuse. To achieve this, the primary objective of the work is to address and overcome the outstanding issues facing AnMBR technology from a practical implementation perspective. In addition to achieving safe water reuse for irrigation, the outcomes of this research will also serve to improve surface water quality by mitigating poorly treated waste sources and reducing contaminant loading.
The goals of this project include the development of a sustainable emerging technology to: 1) Improve surface water quality in various regions of the Mediterranean by reducing point source discharges. 2) Address the proliferation of emerging contaminants during wastewater discharge and reuse practices. 3) Allow for both water and resource (energy) recovery as part of the direct reuse of treated wastewaters and anaerobic biogas harvesting. 4) Reduce reliance on groundwater resources for irrigation practices and subsequent seawater intrusion potential. 5) Reverse the effects of soil salinization by sustainably reducing reliance on highly saline irrigation water sources. 6) Significantly reduce reliance on inorganic fertilizer sources through nutrient preservation during wastewater treatment for agricultural reuse.
The technologies necessary for widespread unrestricted irrigation reuse across the Mediterranean are not at a level ready for municipal or market application. Based on this, the project team will focus on development, advancement, and application of the emerging technology known as the anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) for unrestricted wastewater reuse. Integrated testing of AnMBR technology for treatment of wastewaters in multiple participating countries will be performed, with a specific focus on mitigation of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). In order to broaden the potential reuse application scenarios, low-impact membrane-based tertiary treatment will also be investigated and applied for these systems. Scale-up of AnMBR technology will be addressed using a pilot-scale system, specifically focusing on practical operational strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy recovery efficiency. Specific objectives of pilot-scale assessments will include increasing influent waste stream diversification and effluent methane valorization strategies. Operational practicality will be assessed by incorporating life cycle assessment analyses using collected data. Based on the experiments conducted, we will implement a plan for advancing AnMBR technology to a point where technology transfer to local/national stakeholders and responsible governance agencies can occur.
The project is anticipated to enhance local capacities across the Mediterranean to support employability and economic development in the field of wastewater reuse and resource recovery. Specific impacts will result in an overall improvement of surface water quality in various regions of the Mediterranean by reducing point source discharges while also increasing water and energy availability as part of the direct reuse of treated wastewaters and anaerobic biogas harvesting. These impacts will further serve to reduce reliance on groundwater resources for irrigation practices, decrease the effects of soil salinization, and mitigate the necessity for inorganic fertilizer use. These results will ultimately serve the management of low-quality waters under increasing water scarcity and climate change conditions.
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