Water is not for free. More and more companies know this too. Not only climate goals, but especially a greater impending shortage of water is making companies think more about water. During the production process, water is often used only once. In many cases, it can be purified and reused. VITO has engaged the Antwerp-based environmental engineering firm Nuoro to design a series of pilot water treatment plants to ensure a more sustainable and circular water future in Flanders.

The effects of climate change and human activities are having an impact on the quality and availability of freshwater. Everyone is convinced of that by now. Flanders in particular, with its high population density and water-intensive industrial and agricultural activities, faces a major challenge. Action is therefore urgently needed. Through the Blue Deal, Flanders is pushing hard for water efficiency.

To guarantee a robust water system, we must opt for a circular model. Here, water that has already been used is treated for reuse. Alternative water sources, such as rainwater and groundwater, can also be part of the solution. Treatment also improves the quality of groundwater, surface water and drinking water.

PFAS, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and antibiotics: the list of pollutants that threaten health and the environment is endless. On the positive side, there is a range of technological solutions available to tackle these challenges and Flanders is at the forefront of technological innovation in water treatment.

State of the art pilot plants in five containers

Through the WaterClimateHub, VITO is now investing in several state-of-the-art pilot installations for water treatment that can be tested on site. The installations will be housed in five containers. The technologies used should allow specific contaminants to be removed and the desired water quality to be achieved.

The units will further treat and upgrade used process water and so-called bio-effluent from domestic and industrial wastewater treatment plants and rainwater. The containers can be switched in different combinations or used individually. In this way, interested parties get a clear picture of the best available technologies that meet their demand for water treatment.

"A fleet of modular and flexible water treatment pilots will accelerate our research in the field of circular water use. As VITO, we have all the expertise in-house but felt the need for a partner with the required technical know-how to help realise this project. That is why we are developing this project together with Nuoro," says Karen Vanderstraeten, business development manager water and industry.

The technologies housed in the containers are multifiltration, activated carbon filtration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, direct nanofiltration and UV disinfection. Any initiative in need of more insight into its water treatment system can call on VITO to temporarily set up one or more containers on its own site and test out the various technologies.

Detailed engineering is currently underway, to start construction in early 2023. First commissioning is planned for summer 2023.

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