IWAMA project results ready to boost efficiency in wastewater treatment plants around the Baltic Sea Region

The global demand for water and energy in the cities is expanding due to population growth, urbanisation and rising standards of living. In the last century, water use has been increasing at more than twice the rate of the population growth. Thus, the pressure for municipalities to efficiently treat wastewater is greater than ever.

For wastewater treatment plants, inability to operate efficiently can be extremely costly. The combination of ineffective process equipment, outdated management practices and lack of structured learning programs for employees can result in much higher operating costs and lower revenue, which in turn withholds organisation's development and investment potential. Therefore, wastewater treatment plant operators should regularly analyse their wastewater treatment performance and ensure systems are operating with the most efficient equipment and technology.

The tools and solutions developed within IWAMA (Interactive Water Management) project can help WWTPs achieve utmost resource efficiency and realize potential cost savings by reducing energy consumption and improving sludge handling practices.

Conducting a self-assessment with the help of benchmarking tools

Benchmarking has become a key practice in the wastewater sector. It helps operators to determine the baseline performance of their plant and set realistic performance targets.

IWAMA developed two comparative benchmarks: in smart energy and sludge management. With more than 65 plants from 9 countries contributing to this output, the benchmarks provide good reference to the regional situation and technical details of the processes applied in the Baltic Sea Region taking into account energy consumption, effluent quality parameters, treatment efficiency and overall sludge treatment situation in the region. The results of the benchmarking are available in a form of user-friendly reports offering the opportunity to calculate respective values and compare them to others.

Key figure data for energy efficiency Key figure data for sludge benchmark

Benchmarking of the status of wastewater treatment plants helps in detecting possible performance gaps that can be further improved. Large deviations from the regional average indicate a demand for a detailed audit identifying the potentials for optimization in the treatment process. For this purpose, two self-audit tools were developed in the project.

Performing energy and sludge audit to ensure maximum efficiency

Audit tool for smart energy management and Audit tool for smart sludge management ensure the effectiveness of the processes applied at wastewater treatment plants and outline the potential for improvements. The audit tools provide an opportunity for operators to perform self-auditing at their wastewater treatment plant, and thereby enhance the energy efficiency of the treatment, improve sludge handling, and detect measures for both short and long-term improvement of the processes.

The audit tools analyse efficiency and feasibility of smart energy and sludge management considering full process analysis, on-site energy measurements, sludge handling technology, energy and chemical consumption or automatic calculations of operational parameters. First energy and sludge management audits supporting development of the tools were performed at nine wastewater treatment plants in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany.

The audits on sludge management revealed that there is a large amount of waste activated sludge produced in the Baltic Sea Region. Waste activated sludge contains variety of pollutants (heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pathogens) and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous). In order to reduce the flow of pollutants into water bodies and to promote recycling of nutrients, it is essential to support smart sludge management in the region.

The uniform and thorough audit concept developed in IWAMA is tailored-made for the Baltic Sea Region and considers regional and technological peculiarities, which increases the potential of practical application of the tool. Based on achieved results, WWTP staff can obtain knowledge about important operational parameters and possibilities for the improvement of the process. Plants can benefit from the enhancement of sludge management, as it leads to lower energy consumption, higher energy production and reduces loads of hazardous substances and nutrients in the effluent.

Finding most efficient technology

IWAMA project piloted seven investments focusing on efficiency and optimisation of energy and sludge management. All investments are innovative in their nature and provide new solutions for sludge humification and drying, reject-water treatment, energy balance, optimized process operation and mass flow management.

Pilot investments as well as many other most recent and replicable good practices, technical solutions and tools can be found in the online portal for water experts Baltic Smart Water Hub. The Hub was developed in the framework of the IWAMA project to support knowledge sharing and ease the free access to the best available technology in the field. Content of the Hub covers broad array of water-related issues grouped in four categories: waste-, storm-, fresh- and seawater. Through the demonstrated cases, Hub users can find ideas for investments, solutions to similar challenges and tools to use in the daily work.

Supporting the capacity development and lifelong learning of water sector

Lifelong learning is recognized as a crucial force in the process of improving the capacity of operators of wastewater treatment plants. Providing equal opportunities for continuous education in this vastly progressing field is of utmost importance. To be as efficient as possible, advanced technology needs to be managed by skilled operators.

Lifelong learning is particularly essential to allow plants optimize operation of the existing facilities, integrating new technologies and move to more energy efficient systems. Project launched several lifelong learning tools supporting sustainable increase of skills and competencies of wastewater experts: WWTP game, electronic Training Materials Package with the virtual testing, and publications of lifelong learning opportunities and challenges. These tools promote the idea of lifelong learning as voluntary and self-motivated learning with the possibility for testing of individual skills. The tools include the option of collecting data, which in turn can be utilized for further development of lifelong learning facilities.

Lifelong learning and wastewater treatment in the Baltic Sea Region


All project materials can be found at www.iwama.eu. You are also welcome to read the inspirational publication to improve the state of the Baltic Sea! It includes most of the IWAMA project outputs and project activities, the publication was prepared in cooperation with the Baltic Sea Challenge network.

Baltic Sea protection commitments