LIFE ECOGRANULARWATER - Demonstration project for groundwater treatment with an innovative system based in aerobic granular technology

LIFE16 ENV/ES/000196

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Contact details:

Contact person: Francisco Javier García Martínez
Tel: 34958347276
Fax: 34958247869
Email: jgarcia@dipgra.es

Project description:


Economic development and the introduction of new techniques in agriculture have led to the use of large amounts of fertilisers (mainly nitrates and phosphates) and agrochemicals. Consequently, the organic and inorganic concentration of these chemical compounds in soils has increased. Nitrates and phosphates in soil are highly soluble and percolate via irrigation water or rainfall into aquifers. In a similar way, the presence of pesticides in groundwater represents a significant problem in agricultural areas throughout Europe.

In the EU, groundwater is a strategic resource, especially for supplying water to urban areas. The Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) addressed the problem of groundwater contamination and obliged EU Member States to designate nitrate-vulnerable zones. The Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) and the Spanish legislation RD 140/2003 set a maximum allowable concentration for nitrates in groundwater of 50 mg/litre. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 1985), the consumption of water with high nitrate and nitrite concentrations can cause harmful health effects.


The LIFE ECOGRANULARWATER project will develop and demonstrate a new biological treatment method to remove organic and inorganic nutrients, such as pesticides and nitrates from water. This low-cost and environmentally-friendly technology will ensure a supply of clean drinking water in small towns.

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  • Demonstrate on a pilot scale the feasibility of a sustainable and inexpensive aerobic granular technology that is energy self-sufficient through use of photovoltaic panels (The process will remove organic and inorganic pollutants from groundwater bodies that supply small communities, ensuring the release of nitrogen as N2 and organic matter as carbon dioxide);
  • Implement biological technologies in groundwater treatment systems under strict biosafety controls; and
  • Develop a business plan to address the European market for purification systems, and establish commercial and industrial strategies for the proposed technology. This will guarantee the technology’s transferability to other European regions, in particular through agreements with local authorities and public managers.
  • The project will be implemented in the municipality of Torre Cardela (Andalusia, Spain), an agricultural municipality severely affected by groundwater pollution.

    The main goal to improve the quality of drinking water affected by organic and inorganic pollutants will boost compliance with the limit values established by the Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC), the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Priority Substances Directive (2008/105/EC).

    Expected results:

  • Removal of organic and inorganic pollutants from groundwater to comply with the limit values established by EU and national legislation;
  • Demonstration of the feasibility of an energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral pilot scale plant implementing aerobic granular technology that ensures full release of nitrogen (N2) and other inorganic and organic compounds (i.e. phosphates and pesticides), guaranteeing zero emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide;
  • Removal of 90% of the nutrients from the volume of water treated, and zero waste generation in the water treatment process, avoiding the discharge of brine into the environment;
  • Biosafe production of drinking water from the chemical and biological points of view;
  • Assessment of the proposed benefits of the technology (technological, economic, social and environmental benefits) compared to existing technologies for groundwater treatment;
  • 70% reduction in energy consumption, a 50% reduction in maintenance costs (membrane and chemical products) and a 100% reduction in waste treatment costs will be achieved; and
  • A business plan and agreements drafted with 15 European entities, in territories with similar environmental problems, for the installation of purification plants that implement the technology.



Environmental issues addressed:


Water - Water quality improvement
Water - Water management and supply


drinking water‚  water quality‚  groundwater‚  water pollution

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 98/83 - Quality of water intended for human consumption (03.11.1998)
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Directive 2008/105 - Environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (16.12.2008)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Excma. Diputacin Provincial de Granada
Type of organisation Local authority
Description The environment department of the provincial council of Granada (Diputación Provincial de Granada) supports and advises municipalities in the province of Granada, southern Spain, on water management, including wastewater treatment, urban waste management and sustainable development.
Partners Universidad de Granada, Spain Aalto University, Finland Construcciones Otero S.L., Spain


Project reference LIFE16 ENV/ES/000196
Duration 01-SEP-2017 to 30-SEP -2021
Total budget 995,000.00 €
EU contribution 546,113.00 €
Project location Andalucía(España)


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