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New circular solutions and decentralised approaches for water and wastewater management

Expected Outcome:

In support of the European Green Deal and EU water-related policies, successful proposals will contribute achieving sustainable and circular management and use of water resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, in particular Destination ‘Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors' impact ‘Accelerate transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive, just and clean circular economy based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science’.

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Demonstrate the benefits of decentralised approaches for water and wastewater treatment in various geographic, climate and economic conditions and create a decision framework to help policy makers to see where a decentralised approach can bring the most overall benefits with regards to the centralised one, as well as, how to better design their integration.
  • Improve co-design and co-creation processes and synergies between all relevant stakeholders and enhance public engagement to speed up the market uptake of decentralised and/or semi-decentralised solutions.
  • An enhanced systemic circular economy approach along the water, cycle by using process integration, to minimise water pollution, water consumption and the environmental footprint (including energy use) of water activities and ensure water security.
  • Support the implementation of relevant EU policy needs (e.g., water and marine related policies, water reuse regulation, climate change adaptation strategy, circular economy action plan, the EU zero pollution action plan, and chemical strategy for sustainability).

Scope:

With a rapidly changing urban, peri-urban and rural environments, increasing flooding and contamination of water resources, and in order to reap the benefits of circular economy approaches, adapt to climate change and support the implementation of water supply and sanitation related SDG, innovative approaches and technologies are required. Such innovative approaches should go beyond the central objective of protecting human health and environment, by enabling the overall concept of circularity and sustainability in terms of economic feasibility, social equity and acceptance, technical and institutional applicability, environmental protection, and resource recovery.

Moreover, the current COVID19 pandemic highlighted the essential role of safely managed water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services for preventing disease and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks and constitutes a good opportunity to revisit strategies implemented so far, and to build a more sustainable society meeting basic needs such as water and sanitation for all.

Decentralised water and wastewater systems can play an important role in delivering such an innovative approach and has the potential for a sustainability transition of the water supply and sanitation sector, by treating wastewater close to its source. However, full and appropriate exploitation of these systems, requires further developments, in order to become economically affordable, ecologically sustainable and socially accepted. In addition, the integration between centralised and local, decentralised and/or semi-decentralised solutions should be further explored.

Actions in this topic should further develop efficient and sustainable decentralised and distributed approaches and technologies for climate-neutral and zero pollution water supply and wastewater treatment to optimise circular and sustainable use of natural resources, including integrated stormwater management systems to encourage water management on site rather than to the sewer. The impact of reduced sewer flows, more concentrated sewage and waste sludge discharges from decentralised systems on sewer infrastructure should be better assessed. A thorough comparison of the overall environmental and economic performance of ongoing decentralized water and wastewater systems in different geographical and climate conditions and their potential for climate mitigation and adaptation should be undertaken, in order to assess under which conditions decentralised systems perform better than the centralised ones and help to create the right enabling environment to overcome various regulatory and technological barriers related to the implementation of these approaches. New urban sanitation models based on decentralised and integrated approaches which consider municipal organic waste and wastewater as source for recovery and recycling materials such as organic matter and nutrients that are included in the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and wastewater streams, could be also considered.

The integration of decentralised and centralised systems for water supply and sanitation is particularly needed in highly urbanised areas where centralised systems are currently used, to provide better water services, by reconciling, for instance, the need to meet an increasing water demand and new quality standards in an economic and sustainable manner, including energy efficiency and production. In this context, this action should:

  • Develop an overarching risk analysis and optimization framework for the integrated design and operation of multiple source water supply systems, enhancing the application of digital technologies and solutions.
  • Demonstrate the potential of the integration of decentralised with centralised systems for water supply and sanitation in different areas and scales (eg. district level, cities, river basin), to assess the potential benefits/drawbacks, strengthening public participation and engagement and public private partnerships.
  • Address potential regulatory, financial and socioeconomic bottlenecks with a view of promoting long-term performance-based business models in public private partnerships for decentralised and/or integrated decentralised and centralised systems.

This action should bring together relevant researchers, technology providers, water utilities, business representatives, investors, policy makers and other water users and citizens. The active participation and engagement of different stakeholders should span the entire project development and implementation to ensure performance and sustainability and maximise the final impact.

To reinforce the potential benefits of implementing these decentralised approaches to policy makers their social impact, notably in terms of employment generation and population settlement in decentralised territories should be demonstrated.

The inclusion of relevant SSH expertise would be also needed to ensure the proposed solutions are also socially accepted.

Decentralised approaches for water and wastewater systems provides significant opportunities for developing countries and emerging economies to establish new alternatives and more sustainable approaches to water supply and sanitation and support the implementation of related SDGs. International cooperation is therefore strongly encouraged.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 6-8 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.

This call for proposals follows a two-stage submission scheme:

  1. submission of a 10 page short proposal until 22 Feb 2024 17:00:00 Brussels time
  2. selected proposals are invited to submit a full proposal until 17 Sept 2024 17:00:00 Brussels time

General Information

Call Type
EU Horizon Europe
Eligible Country/ies
EU + Horizon Europe associated countries
Call Identifier (if any)
HORIZON-CL6-2024-CircBio-02-4-two-stage
Expected Outcome or Impact
Expected Outcome:
In support of the European Green Deal and EU water-related policies, successful proposals will contribute achieving sustainable and circular management and use of water resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, in particular Destination ‘Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors' impact ‘Accelerate transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive, just and clean circular economy based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science’.

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

1. Demonstrate the benefits of decentralised approaches for water and wastewater treatment in various geographic, climate and economic conditions and create a decision framework to help policy makers to see where a decentralised approach can bring the most overall benefits with regards to the centralised one, as well as, how to better design their integration.
2. Improve co-design and co-creation processes and synergies between all relevant stakeholders and enhance public engagement to speed up the market uptake of decentralised and/or semi-decentralised solutions.
3. An enhanced systemic circular economy approach along the water, cycle by using process integration, to minimise water pollution, water consumption and the environmental footprint (including energy use) of water activities and ensure water security.
4. Support the implementation of relevant EU policy needs (e.g., water and marine related policies, water reuse regulation, climate change adaptation strategy, circular economy action plan, the EU zero pollution action plan, and chemical strategy for sustainability).
Target Groups
Research Institutes, Academia, Small- and Medium Enterprises, Industry, Non-government organisations, Start-Ups
Submission Deadlines
Single fixed deadline
(Next) Submission Deadline
22 February 2024
Type of Funding Instrument
Collaborative Projects / Consortia
Max. funding amount per project [EURO]
5,000,000 €
Overall budget for all projects [EURO]
15,000,000 €

Author Info

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Patric Gerö

Member since 2 years ago
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