INSPIREWATER: Making Every Drop Count


The SPIRE Horizon 2020 project INSPIREWATER is working to enable process industry companies to implement sustainable water treatment solutions as part of a corporate sustainability strategy. This will be achieved via the development, demonstration and exploitation of innovative, eco-efficient technologies that support sustainable water resources management. The overall goal of the project is to reduce wastewater so that there is zero discharge into the environment and to re-use the treated wastewater.

While 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, less than 1 % is freshwater available for use.  With growing pressures on this finite natural resource, there’s a critical need for more innovative water management solutions.

Water is one of SusChem's innovation priority areas and the platform supports industry involvement in a portfolio of EU funded projects working to improve water and wastewater management including those managed by SPIRE as an entity nurtured and established through SusChem actions. 

In Tarragona, Spain, a region that’s faced a critical water shortage, chemical company Clariant is part of an innovative project to test out sustainable wastewater solutions that can eventually be applied to sectors across the globe. The INSPIREWATER (Innovative Solutions in the Process Industry for next generation Resource Efficient Water management) project brings together eleven industrial and scientific partners working in sectors such as steel and paper. Their goal for 2025 is to reduce current freshwater consumption by 35 % and wastewater emissions by 40 %.

INSPIREWATER technologies aim to increase water and resource efficiency by 20-30 % across the process industry. The project will focus initially on the steel and chemical industries, with the long-term goal of applying the technologies throughout process industry sectors for maximum impact.

The project includes partners representing the steel and chemical industries, technology and innovation SME’s, research organisations and dissemination and exploitation experts. The collaboration of these partners forms an exceptional team to deliver quality innovation and striking impact in the process industry. The emphasis on deployment and impact within the project reflects the target set by SPIRE's research and innovation strategy, the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on ‘Water’ and the EU Commission’s Roadmap on Resource efficiency. In addition, the project will implement European directives and policies in Water Management.

New Tech in an Ancient Port

In recent years, the ancient port city of Tarragona and its surrounding province have dealt with water scarcity issues due to declining summer rainfalls and increased water demand from industry and tourism. The region is also home to a cluster of chemical companies including Clariant’s speciality chemicals facility.

As the representative of the chemical industry within INSPIREWATER, Clariant’s Tarragona site is testing out an innovative multi-membrane technology for waste water treatment demonstrated as an “end-of-pipe” solution, which filters contaminants from water before it can be recycled or reintroduced into the environment. Under current methods, wastewater is purified using “reverse osmosis,” a process that requires hydraulic pressure and energy inputs. The multi-membrane technology currently being tested combines the standard osmosis process with a variety of energy-efficient technologies, so that wastewater can more efficiently pass through membranes to be purified.

Other technologies being piloted by INSPIREWATER will help conserve water across the production life cycle. The end goal is to reduce wastewater so that there is zero discharge into the environment and to re-use the treated wastewater. “To Clariant, the best wastewater is wastewater that barely exists,” says Friedhelm Zorn, Head of Competence Centre Environmental Technologies at Clariant.

Catalyst technology

Within the INSPIREWATER project there are three innovative technologies for sustainable water treatment being developed and tested. One is catalyst technology being developed by MOL Katalysatortechnik GmbH

The MOL®LIK Catalyst reduces chemical dosage, minimises maintenance, optimises energy demand and saves money. The technology is being evaluated as part of the large-scale demonstration at Clariant.