LIFE Nirvana starts its activity to reduce nitrate contamination of aquifers

LIFE Nirvana starts its activity to reduce nitrate contamination of aquifers

After months of preparation, operations have begun at the pilot plant of the LIFE Nirvana project, located in the Zarandona aquifer (Murcia), at the Aguas de Murcia facilities. The project aims to develop an innovative and effective technology for in-situ bioremediation of groundwater, which will reduce the concentration of nitrates in aquifers in a sustainable way.

Groundwater is the main source of water supply for a large part of the population in Europe. However, the presence of nitrates above the legal limit (50 mg/L) limits the potential use of groundwater for water supply. This problem has its maximum expression in the recent degradation of the natural saline lagoon of the Mar Menor, in the region of Murcia, where the extreme levels of nutrients, phytoplankton and turbidity have caused a loss of 85% of the initial extension of the seagrass meadows, mainly due to the contribution of nitrates received from the Campo de Cartagena aquifer.

Currently, there are different solutions to deal with nitrate pollution of groundwater. However, these techniques generally have a high environmental impact, as they consume a lot of energy, generate a large amount of waste and, in some cases, require additional treatment of the denitrified water obtained, increasing the overall costs.

In order to contribute to solving this environmental problem, LIFE Nirvana proposes an innovative solution for in situ denitrification of groundwater, which consists of injecting zero-valent iron nanoparticles into nitrate-contaminated aquifers. These particles have the capacity to enhance the transformation of nitrate into nitrogen gas (N2), as well as to convert organochlorine pesticides into biodegradable compounds. In this way, a more sustainable management of water resources will be promoted, as the nitrate content will be reduced and will contribute to the recovery of the good chemical status of groundwater and to its compliance with the legally established potability limit for this parameter.

LIFE Nirvana, co-financed by the European Union’s LIFE programme, is coordinated by Cetaqua Andalucía, the Andalusian Water Research Centre Foundation. Cetaqua Andalucía is a public-private collaboration model that was created to guarantee the sustainability and efficiency of the integral water cycle, taking into account territorial needs. The project partners are Aguas de Murcia (EMUASA), the Municipal Water and Sanitation Company of Murcia that manages the Urban Water Cycle throughout its municipal district, and AQUATEC, a water and environmental technology company that provides consultancy services, design, comprehensive project development, installation and implementation of advanced solutions for the optimisation of the processes of the integral water cycle and environmental conservation.