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WaterReuse project WaterReTUNe wins first prize

Project honoured in the prestigious Tunisian innovation award in the "Cooperation projects" category


The WaterReTUNe project, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and successfully demonstrated the reuse of saline wastewater treatment plant effluents for food production, has won first prize in the Tunisian innovation competition in the "Co-operation Projects" category. Our Tunisian project coordinator Hamza Elfil had the honour of accepting the prestigious prize at a ceremony attended by the Minister of Economy, Fatma Thabet Chiboub, the Minister of Science, Moncef Boukthir, and the German Ambassador, Peter Prügel.

Due to population growth, climate change and a corresponding degradation of water quality, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Tunisia and other countries in the Maghreb region to meet the demand for freshwater resources for agriculture and food processing. Therefore, there was an acute need to develop concepts that allow for a comprehensive and diversified utilisation of the large potential of wastewater reuse in a sound, safe and sustainable way.

As part of the WaterReTUNe project, Tunisian and German scientists jointly succeeded in treating wastewater from five wastewater treatment plants in such a way that it can be safely reused for food production by means of advanced wastewater treatment using near-natural processes and partial desalination. Some of the processes developed, such as the use of a modified soil filter, take cultural constraints into account and thus increase public acceptance of the use of treated wastewater in agriculture.

An extensive testing facility complex was set up and put into operation in autumn 2021 on the site of the Groupement de Développement Agricole (GDA) Sidi Amor. A process chain consisting of nature-based solutions (NBS) and a combined membrane system of nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) was used to produce the partially desalinated reuse wastewater for irrigation purposes. At the same time, treatment approaches for recovering nutrients from the brine for halophyte cultivation were trialled and a low-tech aquaponics production area was cultivated under closed-loop management.

In addition to the technical demonstration of water reuse, it was also shown that the specific treatment costs of the wastewater are good prerequisites for the economic applicability of the concept on a larger scale.

The Tunisian Ministry of Industry's award of the National Innovation Prize from the Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation is a great honour for us and underlines the innovative spirit and commitment of the project team, with the transnational objective of advancing sustainable development solutions.

The project WaterReTUNe is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Federal Government's strategy for the internationalisation of education, science and research within the guideline for the funding of research projects with Tunisia with the participation of science and industry (2+2), funding reference 01DH19021A.