Technological Centre

At CETIM we mobilise more than 70M € to accelerate change in the water cycle

  • As a Technological Centre, we carry out many projects in areas such as nature-based solutions, water reuse, desalination, resource recovery or the detection of microplastics and emerging pollutants.
  • One of our latest success stories is the LIFE Green Sewer research project through which we obtained recycled water suitable for agricultural irrigation at the Ferrol WWTP and which we will now test in Almendralejo (Extremadura).
  • Today we commemorate World Water Day by remembering that innovation and the circular economy are the key tools for moving towards sustainable consumption.


Since our incorporation in 2013, a decade ago, improving the application of the circular economy to the water sector and accelerating the change towards more sustainable consumption has been one of our main lines of R&D&I, in which we have mobilised more than 70 million euros, approximately, through some twenty research projects.

In recent months, we have made progress in three important projects financed with top-level European funds, LIFE Green Sewer, H2020 NICE and LIFE DRAINRAIN, with notable results. They are also three success stories to exemplify how the slogan of this World Water Day 2023 “Accelerating Change” can be applied, contributing small drops to care for the environment by relying on a business network committed to and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, specifically SDG 6.

The LIFE Green Sewer research, which we lead in collaboration with EMAFESA, Magtel, Socamex and the University of Barcelona, is co-financed by the European Union within the LIFE Grant Agreement Programme No. LIFE17 ENV/ES/000341. Its objective is the implementation of a new secondary treatment system for wastewater or industrial water, through the integration of new technologies that also allow obtaining biogas, nutrients and water for reuse, as well as the monitoring and reduction of pollutant discharges and energy consumption.

Pilot plant seen from the outside of the Life Green Sewer project.

The project, currently underway, is achieving promising results after the installation of an industrial pilot at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) of the Ferrol municipal water company, EMAFESA. During this trial it was possible to obtain recycled water suitable for agricultural irrigation class B, which means that 92% of emerging pollutants have been removed with a removal rate of 90%.

This pilot will soon be transferred from Ferrol to Almendralejo, in Extremadura, to obtain recycled water in a completely different situation from the previous one, with a much drier climate and different characteristics, such as the high presence of industrial water. Thanks to this, a key point for the viability of the technology will be tested: its replicability throughout Europe.

Depósitos de agua instalados en el interior de la planta piloto de Life Green Sewer.

Network of urban laboratories

Another of the projects through which we are trying to do our bit to accelerate this change towards sustainable water consumption is H2020 NICE. The initiative, which we also lead, investigates Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to solve the different problems of the urban water cycle. These solutions are generally passive systems for very low-cost treatment that will increase water availability and improve the resilience of cities to climate change with minimal environmental impact.

The solutions being developed in the H2020 NICE project are geared towards obtaining water suitable for reuse. For example, through domestic greywater reuse systems that would be used for recharging cisterns, irrigation or irrigation after an on-site treatment process or with the mitigation of pollution through the management of urban rainwater with combined drains, thus contributing to flood control.

In this case, the feasibility of the project will also be tested in different implementations covering problems associated with different climates and ecosystems. Specifically, NICE will take the laboratory’s NBS to real environments, thus establishing a network of real urban laboratories in 11 cities in 5 European countries (Spain, France, Italy, Denmark and Poland) and 2 international ones (Colombia and Egypt). To achieve this, it is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.101003765 and by an international consortium made up of 14 companies from more than 9 countries, including FCC Aqualia, ICLEI and Aguas y Aguas de Pereira, among others.

Harnessing runoff

Along the same lines, we have already successfully completed some of the many projects dedicated to water conservation research. This is the case of LIFE DRAINRAIN, which has developed a new system for treating particularly polluted water, such as that from port esplanades, the shipbuilding industry, machinery parks, etc., to eliminate the pollution carried by rainwater and reuse the resource with guarantees.

The project was developed by the consortium led by Proyfe and also comprising the Ferrol-San Cibrao Port Authority, COPASA, CETIM and CYE Control y Estudios. It was co-financed by the European Union within the LIFE programme (LIFE 15/ENV/ES/000394).

LIFE DRAIN RAIN pilot installed in Calasparra (Murcia).

These three projects LIFE Green Sewer, H2020 NICE and LIFE DRAINRAIN are just one example of what can be done to move towards a circular and sustainable economy through combined efforts that accelerate progress. In 2023, we will continue to develop key research and technologies to secure the present and future of this essential resource for life.