6th December, 2017.- Farmers and ecologists have praised the commitment to the sustainability and saving of the pilot plant developed, within the framework of the Life Celsius project, in the wastewater Treatment Station (WWTP) of Archena (Murcia), aiming to proof the viability of a water treatment system for warm climates with low energy consumption and reduction of C02 emissions.
Research and innovation
Pedro Luengo, spokesman for Ecologistas en Accción (Environmentalists in action) in the region of Murcia, has emphasized that “it is very necessary to invest in research, optimize resources and save energy for the same goal, which is to achieve optimal dumping water to return to the environment”.
In his view, “purification should not only fulfill human needs, but also the recovery of ecological flows of rivers or of certain wetlands”.
In this sense, Pedro García, spokesman of the Association of Naturalists of the Southeast (ANSE), has recalled that some old sewage treatment plants are now shelters of endangered anatidae, such as Las Moreras or Molina de Segura, “examples demonstrating that treated water can naturalize old infrastructures”.
In relation to the Life Celsius project, he pointed out that “we must move forward in new lines of research that influence the costs of purification with new methods that reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of the effluent, and this project goes in that line”.
Ecologists visit Celsius
The above Organizations have visited the pilot plant developed by Acciona Agua in the Archena WWTP, owned by the Regional Wastewater Treatment and Sanitation Authority of the Region of Murcia (ESAMUR), and have valued the efforts of Acciona Agua and EFE News Agency to communicate an initiative which is “as innovative as committed to the environment”.
For his part, Marcos Alarcón, Secretary of Organization of the Union of Small Farmers (UPA), has stressed that the Life Celsius project is “one step further” in the purification and has recalled that “today 60 percent of wastewater treatment plants of residual waters of Murcia already make biological purification with tertiary treatments “.
“The goal is to complete one hundred per cent,” said the head of UPA, who has recalled that “energy with 93 treatment plants are similar to those in 2003 with only 69”.
Reuse of wastewater
However, the reuse of water from sewage treatment plants for agriculture “cannot serve as an excuse” to increase the irrigated area, but this resource should be used for those “undersupplied” due to the drought.
Pedro Garcia has predicted that “we have come a long way in water purification and there are things that have been done very well, but the great paradox is that the irrigated area continues to increase, and future sustainability becomes virtually impossible”.
He has also denounced that “in the midst of one of the most important droughts in recent history, as is the current one, agricultural surfaces have been transformed and hundreds of hectares have been broken down during the summer for new irrigation”.
And this has been done “in places-like the region of Murcia-where the regulation expressly prohibits the creation of new irrigation and the new infrastructures for obtaining water should serve only to equip the already existing ones”.
Pedro García has assured that in the last 25 or 30 years, the water purification in Murcia has changed “in an abysmal way, we have gone from a very reduced purification index with very serious problems of discharges to the Segura River or to the Mar Menor to purify most of the wastewater”.
In this respect, he has claimed that part of that water will return to the riverbeds or serve to recover old infrastructures for biodiversity, because “if all the water is used for irrigation, we can favour the transformation of new surfaces into irrigated areas”.
Water Purification and Agriculture
According to Marcos Alarcón, in Murcia “the need has made virtue” and the reuse of water from sewage and desalination plants “has been a bet for decades”.
This is why, in the region, 5 cubic hectometres (Hm3) are purified annually and 99 percent of purified water reverts to agriculture, which makes Murcia a “national and european benchmark”.
In fact, “of all the purified water that is reused in Spain, 30% is in Murcia (…) we are at levels of maximization in terms of water purification, regulatory compliance, and reuse”.
Pedro Luengo considers that the problem arises “when optimal purified water is obtained for agriculture, instead of covering the needs of existing crops, it is used to increase the irrigated area”.
“Putting more irrigation in the heat of the optimization of unconventional water resources is unsustainable”, said Luengo, who recalled that the bursting of the bubble led some owners to make profitable land for urban development with industrialized irrigation.
Traducción: Carmen Gilson