Greece is taking a lead in developing a circular economy through the European Union-funded Hydrousa project, a scientific program aimed at the extraction of water from unconventional sources to be used for irrigation and even for human consumption on the country’s islands. It is now moving on from the designing stage to licensing.
The program was officially launched a few weeks ago at Impact Hub Athens, although it started last July on the islands of Myconos, Lesvos and Tinos, through a range of innovative applications.
The project, which boasts 27 partners, seeks to tap unused water sources such as wastewater in order to diminish or ideally eliminate the need to bring freshwater in from elsewhere, as well as to reduce its cost. The idea is motivated not just by the material advantages of extracting a precious resources from an unusual source, but also by the opportunity to change the prevailing mentality in favor of an impact economy and positive social change, according to its organizers.
“Nothing should go to waste,” is the motto of Hydrousa, which aspires to expand way beyond its trial application, budgeted at 12 million euros. This initial stage is projected to run to end-2022, with the design of the processing units now completed and the focus shifting to the licensing of facilities.
Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, Hydrousa has secured the support and cooperation of universities, local authorities on the islands, nongovernmental organizations, established companies and startups, and the local communities which – contrary to other such innovations that have met with resistance – have embraced the project, as it is not seen to interfere with their everyday lives.
Program coordinator Simos Malamis, an alternate professor of engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, says there are 25 locations across Europe and beyond where the program could be replicated.
Crucially for its success, the Hydrousa project adopts innovative, nature-based and nature-inspired water management solutions with a low energy footprint, such as the low-cost desalination systems on Tinos and the design of an agroforestry system with circular practices on Lesvos.
“The project has evolved in the last 10 months,” Malamis tells Kathimerini English Edition, “as we have incorporated feedback from local communities, who tell us what to focus on, such as plants etc.”