Interdisciplinary concepts for municipal wastewater treatment and resource recovery

The sustainable handling of waste water is an essential prerequisite for protecting public health, preserving both water reserves and the environment and for guaranteeing the supply of drinking water in areas subject to water shortages. Correspondingly, the market for the management and treatment of waste water offers huge potential for growth. At the same time, an inter-disciplinary approach and the cooperation between industry and the educational sector are indispensable, particularly in such a key area.

The project TreatRec (Interdisciplinary concepts for municipal wastewater treatment and resource recovery. Tackling future challenges) has therefore set itself the goal of contributing to the training of a generation of future experts in the field of waste-water management and treatment. With the involvement of two academic partners from Spain (the Catalan Institute for Water Research ICRA and the University of Girona), the two companies ATKINS (Great Britain) and AQUAFIN (Belgium) and several associated partners, TreatRec prepares young international scientists not only for challenging, future research work, but also for putting directives in the field of waste water into practice effectively and satisfying the requirements of both industry and society in general.

The working environment of the five young researchers appointed in this project combines industrial application knowledge in the fields of the development, design, construction and management of waste-water treatment systems with academic excellence. This pays off, on the one hand, in the foundational research that focuses on improving the state of the art and on advancing knowledge with regard to the handling of microcontaminants such as medical residues. On the other hand, the project also conducts excellent applied research with the aim of developing decision-making systems that make it possible to integrate already existing knowledge into future decision-making processes. The project was launched on 1 January, 2015.


Project goals and work areas

The aim of the TreatRec project partners is to develop a series of recommendations that decision-makers can follow when upgrading waste-water treatment plants, whereby the funded young scientists focus particularly on problems such as the filtering out of micro-contaminants and the recycling of nutrients.

In specific terms, the doctorate students initially receive wide basic training (tutorials, doctorate programme in hydrology and water technology at the University of Girona). After that, they can acquire advanced skills in expert training in the context of individual research projects, and finally they take further education in the form of specialisation courses and workshops.

During the three years of their training course, the young scientists also work on individual doctorate projects, where they tackle five research topics:

  • Handling of chemical compounds that arise in waste-water treatment plants
  • Conversion of micro-contaminants in waste-water treatment into biologically degradable substances
  • Ideal design of measures for the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorous in waste-water treatment plants
  • Adaption of waste-water treatment plants to cope with challenges such as urban growth or floods
  • Assessment of ecological and socio-economic impacts of the upgrading of urban waste-water systems

Target groups

The young researchers themselves are not the only ones to benefit from the project results of TreatRec, but also:

  • The industry – thanks to the practical and market orientation of the research approaches
  • The general public as daily consumers of water who benefit from state-of-the-art waste-water treatment systems

BayFOR as partner

As an associated partner, BayFOR is involved in the doctorate training programme with courses in International Project Management, in relevant EU funding programmes and in writing applications. Thanks to its experience in dealing with European research funding programmes, BayFOR can pass on to the young scientists important knowledge about submitting applications in the context of Calls for Proposals. In addition, BayFOR nurtures its contacts with the project partners with networking during the course of the project.


From January 2015 to December 2018, a total of EUR 1.3 million of European funds will have flown into the project.


University and industrial partners from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom work together in the context of TreatRec. The careful balance of institutions from the academic and industrial sectors makes it possible to put the inter-disciplinary approach of TreatRec into practice. The project is coordinated by the Catalan Institute for Water Research, ICRA.

The partner institutions include:
Aquafin N.V., Belgium
ATKINS Limited, United Kingdom
ICRA – Catalan Institute for Water Research, Spain
UdG – University of Girona, Spain

The associated partners are as follows:
BayFOR – Bavarian Research Alliance, Germany
STW – Severn Trent Water Ltd., United Kingdom
UoB – University of Bath, United Kingdom
WDD – Waterschap De Dommel, Netherlands

Additional information

Further information is available at:


Dr. Mira Petrovic

Dr. Mira Petrovic
ICREA Research Professor, Water Quality Area
Catalan Institute for Water Research, ICRA
Tel.: +34 972 183 380

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