A group of Greek islands is ready to implement a European Union-funded project to improve use of water, extracting it from unconventional sources for irrigation and even for human consumption.
The HYDROUSA scientific program started last July on the islands of Mykonos, Lesvos and Tinos, through a range of innovative applications but was officially launched in March in Athens.
The circular economy 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 resource from an unusual source, but also by the opportunity to change the prevailing mentality in favour 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 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, NGOs, 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.
HYDROUSA 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.
Programme 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 programme could be replicated. “The project has evolved in the last 10 months as we have incorporated feedback from local communities, who tell us what to focus on,” Malamis told Greek newspaper Kathimerini.