University leads €2.5 million EU project to help ease water shortage
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A €2.5 million EU project announced today, has, the University of Malta said, “the potential of reducing Malta’s water consumption by about 24 to 30 per cent, the amount used for the flushing of toilets.”
The project – Micro WatTS – is being led by the University of Malta and deals with the treatment of greywater – that is the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines and other kitchen appliances – and re-using it for toilet flushing.
Greywater can be treated by using surfaces with specially developed coatings that deploy solar energy to kill the bacteria in the water.
Addressing the opening conference in connection with the MicroWatts project, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue, Aaron Farrugia, remarked that under the Italia-Malta Programme 2014-2020 so far 15 projects have been selected for funding.
Comprising of a total of 32 Maltese beneficiaries the funding provided amounts to €9 million.
The University explained that all projects aim at reinforcing sustainable growth at the cross-border level with focus on research and innovation, fostering competitiveness of SMEs and protection of environment.
The Micro WatTS project is co-financed by INTERREG V. A. Italia-Malta. The project ranked first among over 80 proposals submitted to garner the EU funds.
It was launched at the Council Room of the University of Malta in the presence of Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds and Social Dialogue, Dr Aaron Farrugia, and University of Malta Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella.
Prof. Maurice Grech is project leader supported by Dr Stephen Abela from the Department of Metallurgy and Materials and Dr Paul Refalo from the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Faculty of Engineering.
The project combines the expertise of academics and industry in a bid to ease water problems common to Malta and Sicily.
While the University of Malta and Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Catania are well-versed about which materials, when radiated by solar energy, emit components that help break down bacteria, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology and the University of Catania have biological and chemical labs to test the quality of the water.
The industrial partners in this project, Econetique and Plastica Alfa specialise in renewable energy technologies, microsystems and development of innovative polymeric products for water management.
They explained that the first step will be identifying polymers and surfaces that can best be used to treat water. Tests will be carried out to see their effectiveness, while biological tests will be carried out on the treated greywater.
Econetique and Plastica Alfa shall in collaboration with other partners, design and build two standalone micro solar water treatment systems, one for use in a household and another for a small firm.
University Rector, Prof. Alfred Vella, highlighted the importance of these funds for the University’s researchers and students.
Prof. Grech said that such cross-border collaboration at a high level of research is meant to trigger the development of innovative eco-products and services. “In the long run, both the carbon as well as the water footprint will be reduced while reaping a better harvest from natural resources.”