Highlighs and Achievements - End of project, September 2023

Plants need nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), to grow. Therefore, nutrients are used in agriculture. The excess of nutrients ends up in the water and deteriorate the water quality. The NUREDRAIN project tackled this problem by testing filter technologies which can trap N and P out of agricultural waters such as drainage water and greenhouse effluent.
The Nuredrain project considered 4 N removal technologies: 1/ a moving bed bio reactor (MBBR); 2/ a constructed wetland; 3/ a woodchips filter and 4/ a zero valent iron (ZVI) filter. N removal is based on biological denitrification of nitrates into nitrogen gas. The configuration of the filter system depends on the water flow, the N concentration and the availability of land or electricity. Average N removal efficiency varies between 50 and 85%.
The Nuredrain project also considered several P removal filters. P removal is based on the adsorption of phoshates on an iron rich filter material. Appropriate filter material could successfully be produced and tested during the project resulting in an average P removal efficiency of 45 to 90%. A prefilter is necessary at locations where the filter might be obstructed by sediments.
P saturated filter material can be regenerated using concentrated base and an acid washing in a continuous mode. The desorbed material can be reused as filter material and valorisation routes for the P precipitation product will be further explored. A filter regeneration tool can be consulted to calculate for your specific case whether regeneration is cheaper than buying new filter material.

Greenhouse effluent can be treated with DIY (= do-it-yourself) filters. A 2-in-1 DIY filter system realizes an 80% N and P removal. Handy men and women can consult the design tool and the DIY MBBR manual to start building a filter themselves.

Source based measures are not enough to tackle the current problem of nutrient excesses in surface water. Additional nutrient removal technologies are the solution for nutrient hot spots. A cost-evaluation tool enables stakeholders to calculate which impact can be realized in artificially drained areas. The tool estimates the number of filters needed, the associated costs and the potential nutrient load reduction in a study area providing that information such as surface, flow and nutrient concentration about the area is known.

A sound financial model is needed to realize a widespread implementation of nutrient removal technologies in Europe. Dialogues with regional and national authorities, farmer’ organizations, auctions and processing industry have taken place to discuss which public-private support can be given in view of striving for a sustainable agriculture. The Flanders government has decided to provide 75% of investment support to farmers for the installation of nutrient removal technologies. The Nuredrain partnership hopes that other EU member states will follow this example.


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