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Field Notes

Transboundary water management to tackle algal blooms in Eastern Baltic region

A three-year project is targeting improved management of transboundary rivers in the Eastern Baltic Sea Region, which has suffered from eutrophication as a result of industrial and agricultural pressure.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is implementing a project to enhance civic action with partners in Russia, Kaliningrad Oblast, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden.

The project, entitled "Building a framework for collective action in the management of the transboundary waters in Kaliningrad, Russia, Lithuania and Poland (Baltic Sea region)" is funded by the Swedish Institute and will be implemented over three years (2012-2015).

The project is implemented by SIWI in partnership with the Northern Dimension Foundation (Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia), the Institute of Economy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia), Global Water Partnership (Poland and Lithuania) and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (Sweden), with support from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Collaboration between the EU member states and Russia on its shared river basins is critical to tackle the deteriorating state of the common Baltic Sea but collective action in this part of the Baltic is lagging behind, said SIWI. The transboundary Neman (Poland, Lithuania, RF Kaliningrad Oblast, and Belarus) and Pregola (Poland and RF Kaliningrad Oblast) are two river systems draining into the Baltic Sea where multilateral cooperation has been called "poor" and investment in their management "limited".

French water giant helps New Delhi privatisation plans move foward

New Delhi's water management authority Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has awarded a 12-year, 75 million euro contract to a consortium led by SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT (74%) and Indian infrastructure company SPML (26%) to improve water distribution services in the Malviya Nagar district. The new project was scheduled to begin in late December 2012 and will include renovation of 100km of the current 200 km of pipeline, as well as construction of 26km of extensions.

As part of the contract SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT will:

- Increase network performance and increase water losses from current 77% down to 15%

- Replace all water meters and connect 50,000 people to the network during the first two years of the contract to enable them to finally have access to water.


Not just slime! Wastewater-grown algae used to heat buildings

Algal blooms have caused headaches for plant operators over the years yet it is becoming increasingly common to now harness nutrients produced in wastewater and infact grow algae and turn it into energy.

A partnership between US firm OriginOil and French-based Ennesys believe that algae from wastewater can be recycled and used to generate heat in flat, building panels. Founded in 2010, the joint venture believes that by installing "photobioreactors" – thin panels - to a building's façade, algae can be added to generate energy for that very structure.

The plan is for wastewater to be taken from a building's bathrooms and kitchens and algae would then feed off of the nutrients, such as phosphorous and potassium. The addition of the algae gives the panels their green colouring.

"This new concept of algae being grown vertically and also on roofs so that a building can actually purify its own water and provide some energy," said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil.

In its company video, the US firm described how its Algae Appliance Model 4 trial system worked. In single step extractor tubes, algae is collected into clumps. It is then floated up so that it's collected on the surface as bubbles. It is then transferred to the conveyor belt where solids are extracted onto a hopper. While OriginOil did not give away details of its energy extraction process, it said that 95% of the wastewater can be removed, leaving 5% solids.

It was in early 2012 when the first Model 4 system was shipped to Ennesys in France, to be integrated with the company's "wall growing system". A demonstration pilot was installed in the office complex of Paris' La Défense business district.

In a company statement, OriginOil said: "The Ennesys demonstration is designed to test the suitability of algae production in helping large commercial buildings achieve a positive energy balance and natural water management, as envisioned by France's RT 2020 sustainable energy framework. Partial funding is anticipated from regional government entities."

France's sustainable energy law – the RT 2020 – requires all major buildings to achieve a positive energy balance by the end of the decade.

Ennesy CEO Pierre Tauzinat, told Reuters: "Wastewater is full of nutrients. We are preparing wastewater is a way that phytoplankton and microalgae will nourish themselves from everything that is inside this wastewater. What you have is a perfect biomass that's made of phytoplankton that's grown in 24-48 hours and on the other side, you will have pure water."

OriginOil's second licensing agreement will target oil service companies in the Canadian oil sands market. The agreement will see investor LH Opportunity Group bundle the system together with fabricator Ensteel Industries for potential applications in enhanced oil recovery and tailing pond water treatment markets.

Nor is it just in France where nutrients from wastewater are being used to help grow algae. US President Barack Obama announced in 2012 that the Department of Energy would make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae. The Department has suggested that up to 17% of the US' imported oil for transportation could be replaced with biofuels derived from the substance.

In Europe, a €12 million, five-year project is starting at water management company aqualia's wastewater treatment plant in Chiclana, Southern Spain and is backed by the European Union as part of its FP7 program – supporting energy-related projects - with six partners.

Called All-Gas, the project will see "algal culture ponds" being used to grow micro-algae using nutrients contained in wastewater, such as phosphorous.


Researchers reduce phosphorus in wastewater using iron sulphate

Blamed for algal blooms yet heralded for its nutrient properties, phosphorus in wastewater is now being taken seriously by the water industry.

Commercial, large scale companies such as Ostara are now setting up operations with utilities such as the UK's Thames Water to extract this substance. However, researchers at Aalto University in Finland believe they have developed a treatment method which they claim can take place at the same time as traditional wastewater treatment.

Trialled to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the wastewater of a pulp mill, the method is called simultaneous precipitation using iron sulphate. A separate treatment stage is not required, as the precipitation takes place simultaneously with the actual biological wastewater treatment.

Iron sulphate is added to the wastewater prior to the biological wastewater treatment process and the phosphorus dissolved into the water is precipitated with the biomass at the treatment plant.

Finally, the phosphorus is removed from the plant with the sludge. Elsewhere, perceptions of wastewater have been changed from a substance to be disposed of to a valuable resource in the US and Canada.

Researcher Sakari Toivakainen, said: "At best, the amount of phosphorus in the wastewater was reduced by more than 80%, when the amount of iron fed into the process was 10 milligrams per litre."

Initially, the research was carried out in the laboratories of Otaniemi and at the plant using pilot equipment. Iron precipitation was then tested at the wastewater treatment section of a pulp mill.

Professor Olli Dahl from the University said: "With the help of the studied simultaneous precipitation method, it is possible to completely avoid additional stages of wastewater treatment, reduce the amount of solid waste and save energy.

"Simultaneous precipitation produces hundreds of thousands of euros worth of savings in operating costs, as energy consumption and the need for additional chemicals is reduced."


News Briefs

EU to support Djibouti desalination facility

The European Union will provide €40.5 million to support a 22,500 m3/day brackish water desalination plant powered by renewable energy in the Eastern African state of Djibouti.

Project PEPER (Producing Safe Drinking Water with Renewable Energy) involves setting up a desalination plant in the capital to provide water to one-fourth of the country's population, in some of Djibouti's poorest areas.

The facility will be welcomed as current water demand for Djibouti City is estimated at 80,000 m3/day with less than half of that (36,000 m3/day) being supplied.

Water will be sourced from a local aquifer, which has reached its physical limit due to seawater intrusion. The second stage of the PEPER project will see a wind farm planned. The remaining €5.5 million of the required €46m will be financed by Djibouti.

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