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AcceLerate Innovation in urban wastewater management for Climate changE

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ALICE (AcceLerate Innovation in urban wastewater management for Climate changE)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

ALICE (AcceLerate Innovation in urban wastewater management for Climate changE) project is focused on the serious risk posed by the uncertainty of the extent of climate change for the effectiveness of wastewater management. The coming decades are likely to see some geographical areas experiencing a higher risk of flooding and other areas exposed to higher risks of droughts. Both risks are associated with potentially huge economic costs. Higher precipitation, more frequent storms, and earlier melt of ice will lead to more untreated sewer overflow and will require sewer water management to adapt. Better quality of effluent will generate a higher energy demand for a sector that is already a major contributor to the carbon footprint. Severe droughts have been registered in the last decades, with most severe effects in Mediterranean Countries. Water reuse has been identified as an alternative of water supply with an untapped potential for EU that needs to be enhanced. Addressing climate challenges will require a change in the governance of cities and public utilities in order to protect the wider environment and ensuring cities’ resilience against extreme events.

The challenges facing society in urban wastewater management cannot be solved by any one sector alone. ALICE will accelerate innovation by bringing together and exchanging knowledge between the key players who can, together, address the future techno-economic, governance and societal challenges arising from climate change. The results will 1) benefit water utilities, 2) support political and managerial decisions in wastewater, 3) benefit wastewater equipment manufacturers, identifying new market opportunities in the EU, 4) benefit EU citizens from the improved wastewater infrastructure, the environment and job creations.

Within this framework, the main research objectives of ALICE are to:
- OB1. improve the urban resilience of wastewater infrastructures;
- OB2. investigate the wastewater and energy nexus in wastewater treatment plants to reduce their carbon footprint, adopting a holistic approach to resource efficiency;
- OB3. enhance the reuse of reclaimed wastewater and resource recovery, exploring the leading edge technologies of urban WW treatment to broaden its dimension in Europe;
- OB4. investigate the social behaviour and acceptability issues in the development of innovative management systems for urban wastewater.
By the end of the first reporting period, 41% of secondments have been completed. Academics and non academics have also extensively interacted during the four workshops and interdisciplinary training days organized by ALICE project.
Below we report a description of the work carried out and the main results that have been achieved during the first reporting period towards the four research objectives previously introduced.
-OB1. Researchers are developing a methodology to screen a wastewater system for vulnerabilities and to identify measures to improve resilience. The methodology has been identified and series of interviews with senior managers at the water utility in Belfast were held. The analysis will provide valuable insights and decision support for strategic decisions at senior management levels in view of improving long-term resilience in the management and delivery of wastewater services.
- OB2. Research has been ongoing into the benchmarking of energy consumption in wastewater treatment plants. Wastewater utilities have started to trial a benchmarking software previously developed by one of the partners. Findings will be presented on the deliverable due on December 2019. As regards the use of low carbon technologies to reduce the CO2 emissions of wastewater treatment plants, wastewater utilities have worked with academics to investigate the potential of i) the thermal energy recovery from heat pumps and ii) the optimal integration of renewable sources in wastewater facilities.
- OB3. There has been significant discussion in relation to the newly published EU guidelines on the quality associated with the use of reclaimed water and the technical challenges these parameters will pose to existing and new technologies. As regards innovative technologies to enhance the potential of water reuse, some ALICE partners have discussed a new technology based on photo-electrocatalysis at laboratory scale as potential alternative process for urban wastewater purification.
- OB4. Researchers in collaboration with the technical staff of the water utilities are investigating urban citizens’ preferences, attitudes, and willingness to pay for the attributes of innovative urban wastewater systems and explore the use of “nudges” for citizens’ behaviour change towards a more sustainable use of urban wastewater resources. Three stakeholder workshops have been organized and used by researchers to complete the questionnaire that will be submitted to the wider public in the second reporting period to understand the acceptability issues of citizens.
The research conducted within the ALICE project is going above the state of art, suggesting methodologies and knowledge to boost innovation in the wastewater sector, as clarified below.
In the area of urban resilience of wastewater infrastructures ALICE researchers are making operational the resilience framework that have been identified in the scientific literature. This will help to fill the gap of climate change risk and vulnerability assessment tools in urban areas that can be used by wastewater infrastructures to identify good adaptation measures and strategies.
Researchers and the staff from SMEs and the water utilities involved are working to make recommendations for the management of energy and resources in wastewater treatment plants and to expand the use of tools for an accurate overview of the magnitude and breakdown of energy and resource consumption that can help wastewater managers in identifying solutions to enhance the potential for energy and resource optimization.
In the area of wastewater reuse, researchers are going beyond the state of the art investigating the potential for the use of low-energy demand processes for reclaimed wastewater in terms of removal of priority substances & emerging contaminants and waterborne pathogens with relevance for human health and food security. ALICE researchers are currently discussing a new technology based on photo-electrocatalysis at laboratory scale as potential alternative process for urban wastewater purification.
Water reuse has been practiced across Europe for decades. Despite this development, the legislative and regulatory regimes required to support a growing water reuse sector have arguably failed to emerge. ALICE is addressing the challenges to find appropriate regulatory standards and governance solutions of water systems which can support the reuse of reclaimed urban wastewater in the EU.
The investments in innovative wastewater systems will have to be provided through either taxpayer’s money or water charges, depending on a country’s regulatory framework. In either case, citizens, who will eventually benefit from these investments, will have to bear the cost of these new investments. ALICE is advancing the research in this area by exploring the use of revealed preferences and stated preferences methods to investigate society’s preferences, attitudes and willingness to pay for the attributes of innovative urban wastewater systems.
ALICE leaflet