While 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, less than 1 percent is freshwater available for use. With growing pressures on this finite natural resource, there’s a critical need for more innovative water management solutions.
In Tarragona, Spain, a region that’s faced a critical water shortage, Clariant is part of an innovative project to test out sustainable wastewater solutions that can eventually be applied to sectors across the globe.
The project known as INSPIREWATER (Innovative Solutions in the Process Industry for next generation Resource Efficient Water management), brings together eleven industrial and scientific partners specializing in aspects such as steel and paper. Their goal for 2025 is to reduce freshwater consumption by 35 percent and wastewater emissions by 40 percent.
"The end goal is to reduce wastewater so that there is zero discharge into the environment and to re-use the treated wastewater."
New Technology in an Ancient Port City
In recent years, the ancient port city of Tarragona and its surrounding province have dealt with water scarcity issues due to declining summer rainfalls and increased water demand from industry and tourism. The region is also home to a cluster of chemical companies including Clariant’s speciality chemicals facility.
Representing the chemical industry in the European Union-funded INSPIREWATER consortium, Clariant’s Tarragona site is testing out an innovative multi-membrane technology for waste water treatment demonstrated on an “end-of-pipe” solution, which filter contaminants from water before it can be recycled or reintroduced into the environment. Under current methods, wastewater is purified using “reverse osmosis,” a process that requires hydraulic pressure and energy inputs. The multi-membrane technology currently being tested combines the standard osmosis process with a variety of energy-efficient technologies, so that wastewater can more efficiently pass through membranes to be purified.
Other technologies being piloted by INSPIREWATER will help conserve water across the production life cycle. The end goal is to reduce wastewater so that there is zero discharge into the environment and to re-use the treated wastewater. “To Clariant, the best wastewater is wastewater that barely exists,” says Friedhelm Zorn, Head of Competence Center Environmental Technologies.