Finding the ULTIMATE water symbiosis

A total of 27 project partners have come together under the ULTIMATE project (industry water-utility symbiosis for a smarter water society). 

Co-financed by the European Commission, the four-year Horizon2020 project is being carried out under the EU Water in the Context of the Circular Economy programme.

The ambition is to create economic value and increase sustainability by valorising resources within the water cycle. Water is being repositioned as a vector for energy and materials, instead of merely being disposed of after collection and treatment. 

ULTIMATE uses real-world, large scale industrial demonstrations to build evidence-based symbiosis applications that unlock water-embedded resources including (waste)water, energy and materials.

In total, the project has selected nine large-scale demonstrations (demosites) across Europe from the agro-food, beverage, petrochemical and biotech sectors. 

From water utilities to whisky distilleries, the partners represent a variety of stakeholders who could benefit from circular economy activities. In this sense, collaboration is the start for innovation and local implementation.

Project ULTIMATE co-ordinator Gerard van den Berg, PhD, Project Manager (International Research Programme) at the KWR Water Research Institute, said, “For me, ULTIMATE is not just a four-year project. I aim to achieve collaborations to co-create, transfer knowledge and exploit new developments. In this perspective, I see it as a process.

I also believe we should find ways beyond the project to stimulate continuous interaction between industry and research. In one sense, the projects bring together research and utility communities and then afterwards, utilities often continue with business as usual. There is added value in having this continuous interaction, even after the new ideas have been implemented, to learn from the experience.

Research and policy departments across Europe are looking for well-established examples, often asking ‘Where does it work in practice?’ or ‘Where is your biggest showcase?’. Even though conditions in China or Singapore, for example, will be different from here, it is important to show examples of implementation. These can then be applied under local conditions, with different cultures and investments.”

Hadas Raanan Kiperwas, PhD. Researcher, Effluent Treatment and Reuse, Water Quality Division, Mekorot, said, “Mekorot is very excited to be a part of the ULTIMATE consortium. ULTIMATE is our second collaboration with many members of this group (the first was during the SMART-Plant consortium), and we hope to build on and expand our previous experience.

We are excited that ULTIMATE will be the first project installed at our new R&D centre for water reuse at the Shafdan site, the largest wastewater treatment plant in Israel treating 370,000m3/day of municipal wastewater.”