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Some updates about the research project DEWESUSWAMA: Decentralized treatment wetlands for sustainable water management in rural and remote areas of semi-arid regions

Excursion at the wastewater treatment plant Schönerlinde Berlin
Project area
The visiting members of the participating institutions with members of the ZIEG (project team)
View of the constructed wetland units
Workshop meeting

During 18-20 March 2019, the kick-off workshop of the project DEWESUSWAMA was held in Berlin at the Chair of Urban Water Management, Technische Universität Berlin. The principal investigators (PIs) of the 8 participating institutions from Germany, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco exchanged experience regarding constructed wetland (CW) applications at each region and discussed about the realization of the project. Several wastewater treatment facilities in the wider area of Berlin were visited. Moreover, the experimental set-up, the wastewater to be treated, the vegetation, soil type and properties, sampling and analytical protocols were defined.

At the end of June 2019, team members of the participating institutions from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco visited the TUB Campus in El Gouna, where they had the chance to get familiar with the principles of CW. During their 1-week staying in El Gouna they had the opportunity to participate in the construction phase of the treatment units next to the TUB Campus. Moreover, the TUB project team transferred the relevant to construction and operation of CW knowledge and experience to the members of the participating institutions.

The construction process was successfully finalized at the beginning of August. In total 6 wetland units were constructed, 5 with vertical flow and 1 with horizontal flow. The plant species used are: red (specie: Rizophora mucronate) and grey (specie: Aviccenia marina) mangroves and the common reed (phragmites australis). Currently the initial run tests were finalized and the units are being tested in the treatment of the domestic wastewater of El Gouna. The target is to reuse the water for irrigation and finally to provide a sustainable solution for the region regarding wastewater management.

Acknowledgements: The project is conducted in the frame of the ERANETMED program of the EU Commission (under the program FP7) and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

For more information kindly contact Dr. Tzoupanosnikolaos.tzoupanos@tu-berlin.de

DEWESUSWAMA Research Project: Decentralized treatment wetlands for sustainable water management in rural and remote areas of semi-arid regions


The WE Department successfully submitted a research proposal in the 3rd call of ERANETMED. The call aimed at innovative water management accounting for the need of sustainable food production and agriculture, while contributing in a tangible way to environmental sustainability, and ecosystem services. Water management in successful projects would have to enhance real and measurable innovation, socio-economic growth, new opportunities and jobs in areas as water saving, energy efficiency and cost in water use, waste water re-use and recycling. Projects should clearly contribute to the sustainability and minimisation of the use of natural resources, stabilisation of rural and remote areas and mitigation of climate change impact.

The first EU funded research project of the WE Department with the title “Decentralized treatment wetlands for sustainable water management in rural and remote areas of semi-arid regions” was presented at the ERANETMED conference by the coordinator of the project, Dr. Nikolaos Tzoupanos. 8 institutions from 4 countries will work together to investigate the potential of natural systems with domestic vegetation for the treatment and reuse of wastewater. The funding for TUBCEG will be provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the project will start on the 1st of January 2019.


ERANETMED forms part of the 7th Framework Program suite of European research initiatives, and boasts as primary objective the creation of a “European Research Area Network” for the Mediterranean Partner Countries, similar to other “ERA-Nets” operating in relation to areas as diverse as Africa, (ERAfrica), Russia (ERA.Net RUS+), India (New INDIGO) and the Far East (KorA-Net).

ERANETMED is an EU FP7 initiative that aims at coordinating research activities of the different national research programs from EU Members States, Associated Countries to the EU Research Framework Programs and Mediterranean Partner Countries. In particular, the ERANETMED objective is to strengthen Euro-Mediterranean research cooperation in order to tackle some of the major challenges that the Mediterranean is facing and strengthen. ERANETMED has already launched 3 joints call on: (i) Renewable Energies, Water Resources and their connections for the Mediterranean Region (ii) Environmental challenges and solutions for vulnerable communities in the Mediterranean Region (iii) Fostering sustainable water management for the economic growth and sustainability of the Mediterranean Region.

The main objectives of ERANETMED are:

• establishing a framework for communication and coordination of programme owners and managers related to S&T cooperation from Europe and Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC)

• strengthening Euro-Mediterranean R&I Cooperation promoting joint activities

• developing joint funding schemes and procedures between Member States and Associated States of the European Union andMediterranean Partner Countries (MPC)

• strengthen MPC capacities to enhance research and innovation and increase the impact of research on the socio-economic development of the region.

Contact person: Dr. Nikolaos Tzoupanos

Water treatment cooling tower


The reuse of wastewater is an indispensable element for a sustainable water management, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Furthermore, the increasing energy demand requires in return methods to decrease the amount of air pollution and, thus, to find innovative and interdisciplinary technical solutions, such as the one proposed here. The trickling filter-cooling tower combines wastewater treatment, the reuse, evaporative cooling and green façade with each other, in order to increase the sustainability of the different systems. While wastewater is treated with a trickling filter, the water is evaporating and cools down the surrounding air temperature; this colder air can then be used to decrease the energy consumption of a conventional air conditioning system.

The treated effluent can be used for façade irrigation to filter the surrounding air and offer better climate conditions around the system. A pilot plant was developed at the TU Campus El Gouna and set for the general climatic conditions of arid regions. The system is being monitored by an S::can online sensor set for the sewage parameters and a raspberry PI system for temperature, humidity and flow. A stable temperature difference of 10-12 degrees Celsius between the treatment column and the environment and an effluent quality of BOD5 < 30mg/L could be observed. As this complies with the Egyptian reuse standard quality grade B for fruit trees or dry crops, the reuse for urban agriculture is possible.

Contact person: Meike Lenzen

Research activities in the Hydrogeology field

The investigations of the Water Engineering Department in cooperation with the Water and Wastewater Authority in El Gouna in the field of Hydrogeology can be summarized in the following:

1.    studying the impact of seawater intrusion and disposal of desalinization brines on groundwater quality in El Gouna. The most relevant results have been recently published in the Journal of Applied Geochemistry manuscript;

2.    determining the groundwater age for the deep wells in El Gouna Farm using the noble gases technique and the stable isotopes;

3.    determining the groundwater age and conducting a quantitative and qualitative investigation of springs in the Red Sea hill area in Egypt.

Contact person: Dr. Manal Wannous

Biofilm-Hybrid-Processes for Wastewater Treatment in North African Climate: Conventional Carrier vs Recycling Material for Capacity Increase

Groundplan of the WWTP-block showing the three different process variations that are compared

Keywords: Upgrading WWTP, Biofilm-carrier, Hybrid activated sludge, Capacity increase 

In the growing city of El Gouna about 23.000 inhabitants and tourists are currently connected to a central activated sludge wastewater treatment plant. As the growing city reaches the WWTP-site new constructions are not allowed even though the inflow increases. The Carsten Riechelmann is currently supporting the city services through a real scale test of different options to increase the WWTP’s capacity. A comparison is running between an optimization of the conventional activated sludge process and the application of a fixed and a moving bed biofilm carrier hybrid process. In the lab a pilot scale comparison is running between the common carrier products and potential alternatives from PET-Bottle-Recycling.

The central WWTP treats in total up to 3,000 m³/d of mainly domestic waste water to be reused in the city owned irrigation water network. Due to the utilization for plant irrigation the treatment does not include nutrient removal and just needs to ensure carbon removal and nitrification. The part of the WWTP that is used for the comparison is fed by only one inflow construction but is subdivided in three separated streams with own aeration tank, settler and return sludge flow each.

After the installation of Thomson weirs for the measurement of the flow distribution to each stream and a complete refit of the aeration grit the set-up is ideal for a comparison of three different process options treating the same wastewater inflow while operating in 100% identical geometry:

A. Activated sludge system as a reference for the original process

B. Integrated fixed bed activated sludge system (Jäger Envirotech Biocurlz Textile: 940 holding bars with 6 laces each being 2.7 m long = 15222 m which corresponds to about 18,000m² Biofilm-surface)

C. Hybrid moving bed activated sludge system (Chinese copy of Kaldnes K1 Carrier: 10% filling of 360m³-reactor = 36m³ with an effective surface of 500m²/m³ = 18,000 m² Biofilm-surface)

As occasionally measured data sets of process parameters are insufficient to accurately observe differences between the streams an online measurement system was installed. Currently an S::can system is measuring COD, TSS, NO3, NH4, pH, O2, Temperature in the inflow and the three different effluent streams. Using this setup of continuous registration day-curves are generated to see the different dynamical behavior of the different streams.

Another option to compare the kinetic behavior of the different biomass combinations is the measurement of the oxygen uptake of a certain amount of biomass after the dosage of a defined amount of wastewater. With this approach it is possible to measure the exogenous respiration rate for the degradation of the injected wastewater sample. It allows for a monitoring of the microbial activity if exposed to a certain type of substrate. Thus it is possible to characterize the different biomass biocenosis that are developing in the different process configurations. Furthermore it is possible to test which fraction of the degradation activity comes from the suspended biomass alone and which one from the attached biomass in the biofilm.

Parallel to the tests in the central WWTP in the laboratory of the Campus El Gouna a pilot scale test-plant is running with bottle caps as potentially cost efficient biofilm carrier option. Bottle caps from the local El Gouna recycling factory are having ~180 m²/m³ so only about 1/3 of the K1-carrier surface. But they are available in Egypt for 30 – 40 €/m³ compared to 250 - 300 €/m³ for the Chinese copy of Kaldnes K1.

In the scope of this project the first detailed examination of different biofilm carrier applications in the warm Egyptian climate takes place. The approach examined mostly under the European conditions of <15° still lacks verification of the effectiveness at temperatures >25°C. Thus the coming summer is necessary to complete the project data acquisition. As Egypt faces more and more overload problems in many of its WWTP the results of this real scale research will help decision makers all over the country to evaluate capacity increase options regarding their performance but also regarding their cost effectiveness.

Ecoglobe project at Campus El Gouna: investigation and optimization of a compact underground soil filter


The project is a collaboration between the Water Engineering Department and Ecoglobe GmbH. It was funded by EIT Climate-KIC and was realized during Oct. 2015 – Aug. 2016. The purpose was to design, construct and investigate the efficiency of an unplanted vertical flow wetland (compact underground soil filter) for the treatment of domestic wastewater.

The investigated unit is a decentralized, domestic wastewater treatment system suitable for single residential houses, clusters of houses, hotels, etc. Based on the principle of soil filters (vertical flow), it makes use of the microbiological activity and natural treatment processes. It is a completely closed system installed underground (no space requirements), and consists of a balancing tank, pretreatment tank, the soil filters reactor and the effluent storage tank. It doesn’t provide habitat for insects, a common issue especially in warm climates, and no bad odors are released. A special wastewater supply system developed by Ecoglobe GmbH ensures adequate distribution of wastewater. The study focused on investigating the impact of the soil filter’s depth on domestic wastewater treatment under semi-arid climatic conditions. The unit was constructed and installed next to the TU Berlin Campus in El Gouna, Red Sea, Egypt. The reactor consists of separated soil filter layers with different depths. The unit was tested under varying conditions of load, feeding cycles and pretreatment stages. Essential physical and chemical parameters where monitored in samples after all treatment stages for a period of at least 6 months.


The investigated system is suitable for domestic wastewater treatment in arid and semi-arid regions. The deepest layer performed better, but the effluent quality from all layers was within the limits for reuse. With an effluent quality below 40 mg/L COD and below 20 mg/L of TSS and BOD5, the water can be reused for various purposes according to Egyptian and EU legislation limits (e.g. irrigation). Good performance, easiness of operation and maintenance, underground placement and relatively low energy demands are the major advantages of the system.



Construction works of the Ecoglobe Project at Campus El Gouna


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