The ecoSTP2023 Congress will highlight the value of wastewater in times of climate change and drought

The University of Girona (UdG) and the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA-CERCA) are organizing the sixth edition of the EcoSTP International Congress on sustainable technologies for the ecological treatment of wastewater. The event will take place between 26th and 29th June at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Girona and at the Girona Conference Centre. The event will bring together more than 500 experts from around the world. The program includes lectures, courses, workshops and technical visits to present and discuss the latest developments for the treatment, reuse and resource recovery of urban and industrial wastewater from a multidisciplinary perspective.

In Catalonia, the drought is highlighting the importance of reclaimed water, i.e., treated water that receives additional treatment and can be reused for industrial, municipal, agricultural and environmental uses, as well as for golf course irrigation and aquifer recharge. However, it is often not known that regeneration technology is already available and that the scientific community has long been working to turn wastewater treatment plants into true bio-refineries capable of recovering energy for heating and electricity production, nutrients for fertilizer production, and other value-added resources for industry. The Consorci d’Aigües Costa Brava Girona, made up of the Girona Provincial Council and 47 municipalities of the Girona coast and pre-coastal area and main sponsor of the event, was precisely one of the pioneering institutions in Spain as a whole, at the end of the 1980s, when it came to developing water regeneration and reuse projects.

In this context, the ecoSTP2023 International Congress will present innovative developments in technologies that make the purification process more sustainable, less costly and more efficient, and will also consider the socioeconomic aspects that influence so much in its final implementation. It will be a Congress with a multidisciplinary and multisectoral vision, with four days of lectures, workshops, courses, technical visits, and round tables that will dsicuss topics as diverse as nutrient recovery, digitization, social perception of reuse, or wastewater treatment plants as elements of a pandemic surveillance system. In addition, the congress has the participation of companies and institutions of the innovative water ecosystem of water, and aims to involve society.

A record-breaking congress
The first congress on sustainable technologies for wastewater treatment took place in 2012 in Santiago de Compostela. Since then, the scientific interest in researching and developing more sustainable water purification processes has continued to grow, which has been reflected in the increasing number of people attending subsequent editions of the Congress in Verona (Italy), Cambridge (UK), London (Canada) and, virtually at the height of the pandemic, in Milà (Italy). Even so, the number of 400 participants had never been reached. The current edition in Girona, with more than 500 participants from 45 different countries, beats all records and expectations.

The Minister of Research and Universities, Joaquim Nadal, will open the ecoSTP2023 conference in an institutional act that will take place on Monday, June 26th, at six o’clock in the afternoon, at the Girona Conference Center. The program includes more than 170 oral presentations and 220 poster presentations, with speakers mostly from academia but also from industry and public administration. The plenary sessions will feature renowned international specialists such as Zhiguo Yuan (University of Hong Kong, China), Eva Martinez (Isle Utilities, Great Britain), Gustaf Olsson (Lund University, Sweden) and Krishna Pagilla (University of Nevada, USA).

Ignasi Rodríguez-Roda, professor of chemical engineering, researcher of the LEQUIA research group and director of the Environment Institute of the UdG, and Maite Pijuan, head of the Technology and Evaluation Area (Tía) of the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA-CERCA), are the driving force behind the initiative. Both represent two research groups and two institutions with a long history dedicated to the water sector. This strategic alliance reinforces Girona as a research hub in the field of water, and would not be possible without the existence of a consolidated business network in the territory and without the commitment of the institutions. Thus, the Catalan Water Cluster (CWP), one of the most important business associations in the water sector, based in the city of Girona, and entities such as the Consortium of Aigües Costa Brava Girona, have become pioneers and benchmarks in the development of highly innovative projects in the field of water.

A Congress that looks toward society
In addition to being a scientific congress, the initiative will also approach the environment and society. The organizing committee has scheduled a series of activities to bring the theme of the Congress to various groups in the counties of Girona. On June 27, researchers from the UdG and ICRA-CERCA will give a seminar for secondary school teachers and technicians in the water sector, at the same Conference Center. Participants will also be able to attend a poster presentation session and interact with the speakers.

On the same day, technicians of the Association La Sorellona will offer a walking tour of the renaturalization actions of the city that will be carried out in the framework of the GiroNat project to achieve a greener and healthier Girona. The tour will be open to all citizens and will show restoration projects in the Ter river, renaturalization of ponds and school playgrounds or promotion of biodiversity. Finally, the UdG will disseminate the research work of the UdG and ICRA-CERCA presented to the Congress in the framework of the Campus PreBat and the Young Research Campus, two programs aimed at students in their second year of high school and fourth year of ESO.

International and local institutions and companies contribute as sponsors of the ecoSTP2023 International Congress. The Consortium of Aigües Costa Brava Girona is the Platinum sponsor. As Gold sponsors, there are s::cann, Badger Meter, Isle Utilities, Aqualia, Consorci Besòs Tordera, Fundació Rivus, and Hach. Finally, the Silver sponsors are TELWESA, Aéreos Tecnologías Ambientales, Catalan Water Partenariado (CWP), GS Inima, Royal Society of Chemistry, Createch, and the Social Council of the UdG. In addition, the Congress has the collaboration of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the City Council of Girona and the Girona Congress Palace Auditorium Foundation.