Micro WatTS, wastewater treatment project, ‘registers promising results’

From left: Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, Dr Ing Stephen Abela, Dr Ing Paul Refalo, Dr Aaron Farrugia, Prof Alfred Vella, Prof. Ing. Maurice Grech

Last Updated on Thursday, 7 October, 2021 at 8:13 pm by Andre Camilleri

Micro WatTS, a €2.5 million Interreg Italia-Malta project, developed prototypes that treat greywater and render it safe for reuse. Greywater refers to the relatively clean water drained from showers, baths and wash-hand basins, which if treated can be used for toilet flushing.

Two types of greywater treatment prototypes were developed: one operating under solar radiation and another using UV LEDs. Both prototypes were fitted with photocatalytic materials which decompose bacteria and pollutants when exposed to visible and/or UV radiation.

“Results indicate that the UV prototype can treat sufficient water for a three-person household, slashing its consumption by about 30%. Such a saving is remarkable especially when one takes into consideration the fact that Malta is an arid island where the provision of water comes at a high financial and environmental cost. These results tie in with the country’s ongoing efforts to conserve as much water as possible,” Prof. Ing. Maurice Grech, Project Leader and Professor at the University’s Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, said.

UV photocatalytic greywater treatment systems

Prof Grech and Dr Stephen Abela from the Department of Metallurgy and materials Engineering collaborated with Dr Paul Refalo from the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. “These promising results present opportunities for further research and development leading to the eventual commercialisation of the water treatment prototypes,” he added.

Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds, Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, said that this project addresses problems of water scarcity that are prevalent in Sicily and Malta.  Micro WatTS is one of the projects financed under the 1st Call of the Interreg Italia-Malta Programme 2014-2020. Under this call, 15 projects had been selected, amounting to a total budget of €27.9 million between Malta and Sicily. In these projects, 32 Maltese partners are participating with a total budget of € 10.7 million for the Maltese entities involved out of which €9 million are ERDF Funds.

Solar photocatalytic greywater treatment systems

Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Hon. Aaron Farrugia said that the sustainable use of natural resources including water, require long-term planning which in turn is benefitted by research and innovation to find solutions. As demonstrated by this project, solutions to existing challenges can be generated through research and innovation.

“The MicroWatts project is very much complementary to the measures proposed in our Low Carbon Development Strategy. This sets out the vision for the coming four decades as we react to climate change and seek, not just mitigate but to implement adaptation measures. Technology such as developed through this project can thus have a direct potential in the achievement of our long-term climate vision and plays an integral part of our future environmental policy direction.”

Greywater treatment setup on roof of Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta.

This is another project between UM and local industry, financed by European funds. “Such partnership is the only way of ensuring that research yields results with a direct application which in turn impacts our lives.” said UM Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella.

The project was led by the University of Malta and had Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, MCAST, the University of Catania, and two SMEs namely, Econetique and Plastica Alfa as partners. A network of researchers, SMEs, stakeholders and public administrators has been set up to help topple legislative barriers related to the use of recycled greywater for toilet flushing, irrigation and other applications.

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