Achieving wider uptake of water-smart solutions



Nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) recovery from wastewater treatment plants and converting them into an environmental friendly fertilizer used for ecological and agricultural purposes represents one of the core focus of WIDER UPTAKE project. With this regard, batch and pilot tests to thoroughly understand and optimize the mechanisms of nutrients adsorption from wastewater by adsorbents will be performed during the project. Two different adsorption materials (i.e. biochar and zeolites) will be tested. Biochar and zeolites, after beeing saturated with nutrients in the adsorption, will be removed from the filters, air dried, sieved (and eventually crushed) and applied to the soil. Biochar and zeolites will be distributed in the plant root zone. The interaction between soil and plants will be also evaluated.


Wastewater biological nutrient removal processes still have some gaps in terms of technology providing the best performance. Within WIDER UPTAKE project advanced processes (ANAMMOX, biofilm, membrane bioreactors, intermittent aeration) for biological nutrient removal will be tested under particular operating conditions (e.g., partial nitrification, low dissolved oxygen concentration) with the aim to reduce energy consumption and produce water to be re-used.


Recovery of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) from wastewater will be caried out. During WIDER UPTAKE project batch tests will be performed in view of evaluating the microorganism's kinetics and their capability of accumulating PHA. Further, several plant layouts (bench and pilot scale) and operating conditions (sludge retention time - SRT, thermal pretreatment of the sludge, dissolved oxygen, etc...) will be investigated in order to maximize the PHA accumulation. A demonstration line will be implemented within Marineo WWTP in view of recovering PHA from real wastewater and produce biopolymers completely biodegradable that can be offered to the markets.


The disposal of excess sludge produced during the process represents a major environmental and economic challenge for wastewater treatment. Therefore, reducing sludge production in WWTPs is an hot topic for both practitioners and researchers.

Within WIDER-UPTAKE project batch and pilot tests will be performed in view of identifying the best operating conditions to be applied in order to minimize the excess sludge production in an oxic–settling–anoxic (OSA) process. Further, a demonstration line will be implemented within Corleone full-scale WWTP.


The application of biosolids on agricultural land can represent an interesting strategy to improve productivity of crops by increasing soil organic matter. Furthermore, developing a sustainable and integrated circular system to reuse biosolids in land application can be entirely inserted in the concept of circular economy. WIDER UPTAKE project has the aim to overcome the administrative and legislation barriers and share possible solutions for the excess sludge reuse in agriculture by implementing a complex and virtuous dynamic cooperation process among several actors (academic, project partners, municipalities, administrations, technical politics).


Resource recovery and energy reduction represent the foundations of WIDER UPTKE project within the core idea of applying tools for assessing drivers and barriers to circular/water-smart wastewater solutions in the different case-studies.

With this regard, pilot and batch tests for improving processes aimed at water reuse will be performed during the project.

A demonstration study will be performed within Corleone WWTP where the reuse of water subjected to ultafiltration process will be studied. In particular, an agriculture water reuse will be considered and an experimental field trial will be conducted for the assessment, by means of mesocosm experiments, of the relationship among water, soil and plants for evaluation of the food quality.


WWTPs contribute to the total anthropogenic direct (due to biological processes) and indirect (due to energy consumption) greenhouse gas emissions. The current challenge of researchers and professionals in wastewater treatment field focus on the GHGs reductions. This challenge makes urgent the establishment of tools for an accurate estimation of GHG emissions from WWTPs (both in terms of measurement and estimation).

Within WIDER UPTAKE project pilot and bench scale plants will be monitored in terms of GHG emissions. Further, GHG emission monitoring will be performed in the two full scale demonstration WWTPs in view of identifying solutions for direct and indirect GHG emissions reduction.


Metagenomic analysis represents an useful approach to shed light on the overall composition of the bacterial communities involved during the biological processes. Within WIDER UPTAKE project microbiological analyses with the adoption of advanced metagenomic and culture dependent approaches will be performed in order to characterize the involved bacterial community during all the investigated biological processes. This advanced analysis will have the main aim to establish how the bacterial community structure influence the WWTPs performance, the mutual interactions between water/soil and plants and soil fertility.


Mathematical modelling allows to predict wastewater treatment plants behaviour thus representing an usefull approach for plant optimization. All the biological (e.g. carbon and nutrients removal, GHG formation and emissions) and physical processes (e.g. solid/liquid separation) tested during WIDER UPTAKE will be described by mathematical models. Data acquired during the pilot plant operation will be adopted for model calibration and validation. The calibrated model will be an innovative tool for WWTP diagnosis purposes as well as optimization in terms of plant optimization (energy saving, increasing of materials recovery).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 869283