The Workshop focused on the market needs and potential for natural treatment systems (NTS), particularly constructed wetlands and managed aquifer recharge, in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Greek government was represented by Sokratis Famellos, the Alternate Minister for the Environment and Energy. In his welcome speech the underlined the need for decentralized, environmental friendly wastewater treatment solutions to serve smaller communities. Various speakers from the AquaNES project, engineering companies and other research institutions presented a profound overview about the status and potential of NTS in general and in Greece in particular. This covered the use of constructed wetland based wastewater treatment plants as well as the artificial recharge of groundwater.
Andreas Andreadakis (National Technical University of Athens) set the scene reporting on prospects for NTS in Greece. To date, 12000 agglomerations beyond 2’000 population equivalent are lacking wastewater treatment plants. He also pointed out the cost implications and arguments for and against individual vs centralised treatment options.
AquaNES partners, the companies Akut and Autarcon, illustrated how versatile constructed wetlands can be deployed in municipal wastewater treatment and how combination with inline electrolysis can provide water safe for reuse, at essentially no chemical input or fossile energy input.
This was further underpinned by practice reports on the two AquaNES demonstration sites in the islands of Antiparos and Thirasia.
Alexandros Stefanakis (BAUER Resources) reported that experiences with NTS in Greece so far have not been encouraging. Lack of trust in such systems and the utilities operating them is hindering wider acceptance. As has become clear from the various talks, implementation is often limited to areas where research is taking place. In other regions social perceptions and acceptance are the main barriers for NTS implementation.
It was admitted that demand only does not automatically establish a market. Presence of competent market player is key.
What is needed?
The panel discussion brought out a set of economic, social and technical aspect that should be strengthened to further promote NTS implementation
Acknowledge the total economic value of schemes
This was an argument brought forward by Phoebe Koundouri (Athens University of Economics and Business). Economic viability of any wastewater treatment system must be ensured and is a market prerequisite. But assessment should determine the total economic value including non-monetary benefits and opportunities arising from water reuse. Then funding and other steering instruments can be tailored to support uptake.
Enable the ‘supply’ side and on-site implementation
Past and recent experience with NTS confirmed that proper design, construction operation and maintenance of these systems are key to their success. This could best be brought about by certified contractors. But also the common practice in contracting should be reconsidered. Contractual arrangements, e.g. BO (built and operate) contracts should be concluded for durations > 10 years to develop experience and capture knowledge from operation.
Create regional knowledge hubs
The panellists agreed that the dissemination of information on NTS has significant influence on their application. Measure to promote these solutions should aim at creating regional expertise especially by
- further diffusing knowledge from research to practice and enable operators to assure support for such techniques
- harvesting experiences from the AquaNES and other projects
- facilitating continuous know-how exchange
- uniting relevant actors and also involving policy makers and the public sector.
- providing Greek authorities and institutions with up-to-date information on NTS