Water reuse Europe Water storage

One way to scale wastewater reuse? Retrofit 100 treatment plants

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Veolia Water Technologies plans to install wastewater reuse systems across 100 wastewater treatment plants following a pilot project in France. Aquatech Online looks into the plans.

Circular scale-up

Water reuse is often touted as one solution to increasing water scarcity challenges. A way to send cleaned up and purified wastewater to a worthy cause, be it agriculture, or industry or in some circumstances, public water supply.

Yet, scaling water reuse countrywide beyond the odd installation has been a challenge. While water reuse may be part of one utility’s future plans, others may shy away from the idea.

French water giant Veolia Water Technologies believes it is putting plans in place to install wastewater reuse systems across all of its 100 wastewater treatment plants in France.

Following a pilot scheme, the organisation said it will retrofit compact wastewater recycling units, a “compact version” of a drinking water treatment plant. Equipped with a two-stage filtration system, it produces water from treated wastewater.

Pilot units have already been installed in France, at wastewater treatment plants in the cities of Rodez and Narbonne, saving respectively 18,000 and 15,000 cubic meters of drinking water every year.

The company said if it gains the right authorisation, the produced water could be provided for industrial and agricultural applications, including: irrigation and road cleaning, helping farmers, municipalities and industrial customers to reduce their use of drinking water.

Identifying wastewater treatment plants

Currently, the organisation is working to identify eligible wastewater treatment plants for the installation of this system and has already decided to manufacture 30 of the units.

Overall, 100 sites could be eligible, representing a saving of about three million cubic meters of drinking water, equivalent to the average annual consumption of a city with 180,000 inhabitants.

“The technology of reusing treated wastewater has tremendous potential in France, especially in the context of resource scarcity and increasingly severe drought conditions across the country,” said Pierre Ribaute, CEO of Veolia’s water activities in France.

"We believe in this solution, and we are already actively involved in pioneering initiatives such as the Jourdain project in the Vendée region, under the management of Vendée Eau."

The Jourdain project is a global circular water economy programme, which involves reproducing the water cycle in a planned and supervised way.

Instead of being discharged into the Atlantic Ocean, part of the water leaving the Sables d'Olonne wastewater treatment plant is recovered for further treatment in a refining plant.

The technology of reusing treated wastewater has tremendous potential in France.

The water is then transported over 25 km to the Jaunay dam where it is released into a vegetated area to return to its natural state. It re-joins the river and flows slowly into the Jaunay reservoir.

The water ends its circuit in the local drinking water production plant, which makes it available for consumption by households.

Stepping up water reuse in France

In recent years, the impacts of climate change have meant that temperatures have risen and water levels are falling, but recent developments in water reuse technology have meant additional sources of water are available.

The reuse of water includes reclaiming wastewater for beneficial uses, however, only a small part of treated wastewater is re-used today.

Currently, as of 2021, only 0.5 per cent of treated wastewater is reused in France, and that figure only rises to two per cent globally.

Yet there is a multitude of uses for treated wastewater: irrigation, industry and cleaning. The reused water is therefore given an infinite added value and thus participates in the sustainable development of the local area.

A collaboration was launched in 2021 in France to help connect global water sector stakeholders to projects to help close the loop on water.

Called HotspotReuse, the open access platform is free of charge and dedicated to water reuse, listing working projects to connect the industry.

Launched by French environmental consultancy, Ecofilae, the aim of the platform is to “make up for this lack of information and to bring these worldwide reuse projects together”.

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