Population growth among Europe's North African neighbours, Morocco and Tunisia in particular, is putting increasing pressure on the demand for clean water. As supplies slowly dwindle, there is a growing need for efficient technologies to improve water quality and treatment in a bid to cut down on waste water.
Supporting initiatives in Morocco and Tunisia, two Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) suffering from scarce water resources, the EU FP7-funded project 'Network in solid waste and water treatment between Europe and Mediterranean countries' (SOWAEUMED) set out to help these two countries improve their water quality and treatment.
The water in Morocco and Tunisia is not only scarce but is also under threat from pollution. The Sowaeumed project is working with research groups in Moroccan and Tunisian laboratories to develop new systems based on conventional, advanced, and nanotechnologies. These will address both the demands on water as populations in these countries increase and the need for new treatment regimes which will make the valuable resources cleaner and safer.
"A segment of our research activities is directed in the area of nano-environment by focusing on the use of nano-particles and nano-composite materials in environmental clean-up, including water purification and treatment of waste water," says project coordinator Prof. Manuel Valiente.
"Nanoparticles are very suitable for water treatment due to their high reactivity and a very high surface-to- volume ratio; they can be up to 1000 times more efficient than conventional ion-exchange resins for the removal of dissolved species from water streams."
To provide Morocco and Tunisia with the tools to help themselves, the project is strengthening the capacities of the participating institutions in these MPCs through the upgrading of research equipment, the hiring of new senior researchers, and fostering of contacts and exchanges between researchers.
This connection between the Moroccan and Tunisian laboratories and the wider research community has allowed research results, ideas and new technology to be shared. It has also empowered the laboratories in the MPCs to enhance their contribution in the European Research Area, and increased interest in them from European scientists as potential research partners.
"The improvement, modernisation and upgrading of laboratories at the partner institutions has brought their research infrastructure up to the standard of those European research centres the project wants to engage with in the future," says Prof. Valiente. "The project has also has been instrumental in preparing the laboratories to participate more fully in future international research programmes aimed at solving the Earth's waste water and solid waste problems."