It is now well established that water will represent a high value asset rather than a consumable resource in the coming years and decades as the water crisis arises. In this context, improving the efficiency of water use in the industry, which consumes billions of m3 of water per year, is of paramount importance to reduce its impact on the global water supply. Facing this issue is all the more crucial that water industry aspires to become less dependent from public or private parties while ensuring a high quality of water in its processes.
To address this challenge, AQUAFIT4USE aims at tackling cross-sectorial issues for supporting a sustainable water cycle achievement within the major European water consuming industries.
It is a large-scale project funded under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7-ENV) of the European Commission. The project gathers 32 partners (industrial players and research organisations) and started in 2008 under the coordination of TNO (The Netherlands).
The overarching goal of the project consists in making water consuming industries more independent of the supply of water for their production processes by developing new technologies, tools and methods for sustainable water supply, use and discharge: in other words “water fit-for-(re)use”. These new techniques encompass both (i) innovative technologies and (ii) applied technologies (which can include innovative components) dealing with water looping, in four major industries: paper, food, chemistry and textile.
The main objectives consist in:
- reducing the needs in fresh water,
- reducing the environmental impact in terms of energy, emissions and sludge,
- increasing the productivity, the safety and health, and
- closing the water cycle.
Technologies, tools and methods cover the main following technical areas:
This integrated project does not attempt to apply new technologies so as to treat water and wastewater but strives to develop new techniques for treating wastewater in order to produce process water, thereby closing the water circuit.
Within the paper industry, which is closely linked to forest and wood chain management, the implementation of novel technologies for reducing the contamination load as well as removing pollutants is vital for the paper mill sludge disposal and recovering so as to reach the standards required for the water reuse.
As far as the food and drink industry is concerned, water quality standards are very stringent. Implementing tools for the water cycle monitoring, integrating bio filtrating systems for removing the biofouling potential, eliminating heavy metals or softening the water are some of the solutions which are developed in the project.
In the chemical industry, it is assumed that looping the water cycle for achieving a sustainable use of water has been of limited interest so far. Historically, the chemical sector has indeed focussed on treating polluted effluents, removing trace elements and treating water for cooling systems achievements. Adopting measures to increase the resource and energy efficiency as well as reducing the consumption of fresh water to improve production processes is now a matter of concern for this sector that represents 30 % of the world’s chemical production.
Finally, with regard to the European textile and clothing industry that consumes 600 million m3 of fresh water, reducing the water consumption and the related polluted effluent discharges represents a huge eco-challenge. An innovative treatment train concept has been developed in the frame of the TEXAFLOK subproject.