Environmental problem targeted:

People living in rural areas from Mediterranean countries such as Spain and France use predominantly groundwater for consumption. Nevertheless, they suffer from severe drinking water shortages due to groundwater pollution.

Figure 1. Nitrate concentration in groundwater classified by classes (European Environment Agency, 2008)
Figure 1. Nitrate concentration in groundwater classified by classes (European Environment Agency, 2008)

EU Member States have an obligation (DWD 98/83/EC) to provide clean and wholesome water to all citizens receiving their drinking water through a water supply serving more than 50 persons, through a smaller commercial water supply or through a supply that is public. However, results of a survey conducted under the Protocol on Water and Health Report (2016) shows that a total of 20 million people are served by individual and non-piped supplies and supplies serving up to 50 people or <10 m3 /d (very small water supplies), and groundwater was the most frequently used water source for small-scale water supplies. For this reason, the quality of the water supplied by very small water supplies and private wells is largely unknown. That implies that the quality of the water supplied to a significant proportion of the European population is not adequately monitored, and that potential health risks are not recognized.

Anthropogenic pollution by nitrate and pesticides is one of the major water quality problems in small and very small water supplies. In fact, approximately 13% of groundwater monitoring stations across Europe exceed the 50 mg NO3/L limit (91/676/EEC), thereby reducing the amount of usable drinking water (Fig. 1). Across Europe the highest nitrate exceedance rate has been recorded in Belgium (30%), Denmark (26%), Spain (22%) and Cyprus (19%), whereas 7% of the European groundwater monitoring stations reported excessive levels for one or more pesticides (>0.1 μg/L). In addition, a major public health concern has raised across Europe during the last years due to the occurrence of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in groundwater via manure application in agriculture. Very small supplies such as small villages or farms located in rural areas can be the most affected for the combination of several factors: i) increase in the groundwater pollution; ii) high investment and operational costs of conventional treatments (e.g. membrane systems) not affordable for small supplies managers (usually private and family wells); iii) limited access to reclaimed water due to the higher cost when dealing with small volumes of water in comparison to urban and industrial areas. Furthermore, this problem increases due to the high-water demand of livestock farming. Livestock sector consumes 8% of the worldwide used water, including that used for drinking and cleaning of farming facilities, with most of that water being used for intensive production. The daily water requirements vary significantly among animal species. Estimation of the average water use per unit of animal are: cows 9-115 L, beef cattle 25-55 L, pigs 2-20 L, sheep 4-10 L, poultry 0.3-0.5 L, rabbit 0.2-0.7 L.

SPOT project has as main objective to remove the pollution mainly caused by nitrates, pesticides and antibiotics to supply drinking water (human and livestock), and prove an alternative technology to water management in very small water supplies gap.