WWTREAT - Waste Water Treatment Improvement and Efficiency in Small Communities

LIFE04 ENV/P/000687

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Project description:


Small wastewater plants can present problems due to poor performance arising from inadequate design, treatment and control; uncontrolled discharge of pollutants into public water systems; lack of training for operators; unmanned nocturnal plant operations; plant locations in inappropriate sites; and lack of information for water consumers.

However, demand for good wastewater treatment technologies is high due to increased environmental awareness and the need to comply with EU legislation.


The aims of the project included:

  • Analysis of existing technology and systems in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP)
  • Development of a WWTP auditing models to improve efficiency
  • Demonstration of the advantages of using renewable wind energy in WWTPs
  • The use of best available technologies for process control and equipment operation
  • Implementation of an integrated online monitoring system for better performance and increased rapid response to emergency situations
  • Development of a Lab Pilot Plan (8m³/h) connected with the Sintra municipal WWTP online network.

  • Results

    The WWTreat LIFE project demonstrated a new perspective for wastewater treatment in small communities up to 35 000 inhabitants. It was based on the development and implementation of an integrated online monitoring system in three Portuguese WWTP, located in the area of Sintra (Magoito, Almoçageme and Vila Verde).

    The aim was to achieve the best performance and reliability of treatment and equipment and, if applicable, to increase the emergency responses, avoiding pollution incidents in small communities. Combining existing technologies in an integrated control system was an important solution in terms of increasing treatment efficiency and economic viability, saving water, diminishing pollution, recovering water and sludge.

    The project built a portable laboratory pilot plant, connected online to the full-scale WWTPs in Sintra. It records and controls all critical parameters of the process and equipment operation and generates alarms when abnormality occurs. These online alarms result in a quick response of checking and testing the process, including collecting wastewater samples to be analysed in the lab plant (in order to later on correct/adjust the treatment process) and repairing or changing broken, defective or inadequate parts and systems. The portable Lab Plant WWTP system is based on the activated sludge biodegradation technology.

    The remote control and monitoring system allows the monitoring of important parameters of effluent wastewater and of the treated effluent. It also interacts (locally and remotely) with the WWTP components in order to change operational parameters. The online system adopted BAT's for process control and equipment operation, including efficiency monitoring, predictive maintenance, failure diagnoses and optimising of equipment lifecycle decisions.

    The project also developed a specific methodology for WWTPs auditing. It demonstrated the advantages of clean and renewable energy uses such as small wind turbines in WWTP, as well as the energy valorisation of sewage sludge by gasification, depending on the plant site and energy source.

    The implementation of the integrated online monitoring system reduces operation labour costs, optimises maintenance action and cuts maintenance costs. For example, the project’s cost-benefit studies on the Magoito and Almoçageme WWTPs show that significant savings could be made annually by using the system.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).

    An ex-post visit was carried out by the LIFE external monitoring team in November 2018, eleven years after the project’s completion. This considered that the project was very good during its lifetime and delivered a novel solution with real benefits; though its main output, an integrated online monitoring system, was not adopted in the long-term by the entity that tested it. The ex-post report considered the main positive long-term impact of the project to date as being the new knowledge acquired by all the beneficiaries on remotely-controlling operations, SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems, the integration of technologies, operational tools, and specific hardware and software. This knowledge has been used by the project participants in different circumstances, including other projects, new applications and as the basis for further research. In the short-term, the direct impact of the project was related to the improved efficiency of the highly-innovative monitoring system, the adoption of best practices (at the technological level) and resource savings. The implementation of the integrated online monitoring system allows faster and more accurate fault diagnosis, and reduced operational labour and maintenance costs. For example, the project’s cost-benefit studies at the Magoito and Almoçageme WWTPs showed significant savings using the proposed system. However, the online monitoring system is no longer operational due to technical issues (sensor maintenance) and financial constraints; it was replaced two years after the project ended by a conventional system once the sensors needed repairing or replacing. The mission highlighted the importance of foreseeing post-project technical assistance, especially when high-tech solutions are involved, as not all public entities have the courage to adopt innovative solutions when dealing with processes like wastewater treatment given the risk of an environmental accident. However, the anemometric station installed by the project in one WWTP located near a beach is still operating and this continues to collect valuable local data.


Environmental issues addressed:


Water - Waste water treatment


waste water treatment‚  renewable energy

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 91/271 - Urban waste water treatment (21.05.1991)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade
Type of organisation SME Small and medium sized enterprise
Description The beneficiary was the Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade (ISQ), working through its Environmental Technologies Centre (CTA). It is a private technical and scientific industrial organisation involved in audits, testing, revision of projects, technical evaluation of equipments and research on the field of wastewater treatment, in collaboration with universities, scientific research institutes, companies and other institutions in more than 30 countries.
Partners SMAS Sintra, Portugal QUESTOR-Queen’s University Environmental Sciences and Technology Research Centre, Northern Ireland INOV-INESC, Portugal INASMET, Spain INNOTERM, Hungary


Project reference LIFE04 ENV/P/000687
Duration 01-OCT-2004 to 31-OCT -2007
Total budget 1,442,968.00 €
EU contribution 721,484.03 €
Project location Lisboa e vale do Tejo(Portugal) Northern Ireland(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (EN)
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Short guide to improve small WWTP efficiency"
Publication: Layman report Layman report (PT)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (EN)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version