FORWARD FACTORY - Implementation of forward osmosis membrane technology to transform urban wastewater treatment in resource recovery factory

Effects of climate change on water resources, the growing need for water in quantity and quality adapted to different uses and energy savings are major environmental, health and societal challenges faced by humanity nowadays (SDG goals as defined by United Nations). Under the conventional approach of urban WW treatment, urban sewage is considered a waste and should be treated to avoid negative impacts over the environment. Currently, urban WW treatment plants (WWTP) are devoted to remove organic matter (COD), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from sewage before discharge to the environment (European directive 91/271/EEC). Conventional urban WWTP apply activated sludge systems, which are energy intensive, i.e. 1-3% of the total electrical energy output of a country and is not considering nutrients recovery. Moreover, 40% of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, which are typically facing water scarcity (Mediterranean region, California, Australia, etc…) and requires alternative water sources to solve issues of water shortage. Critical issue is water for agricultural use which represents 70% of total water consumption and requires ‘’cheap water’’ for food production18; promoting safe water reuse for irrigation is of primary importance and is promoted by the novel EU regulation (2020/741).


FORWARD-FACTORY project aims at transforming Urban WWTP into a resource recovery factory (RRF) to foster the resource revolution. A shift of paradigm is required to achieve RRF, the current urban WWTP should be totally redesigned with implementation of innovative technologies. This implies (1) moving from WW discharge to water recovery to support its reuse in line with current European directive,  (2) shifting from energy intensive COD removal to organic matter value recovery processes (to produce biogas, valuable organic compounds, biofuels and/or fertilisers) and (3) moving from the current nutrients removal approach towards nutrients recovery (especially N and P). In FORWARD-FACTORY, instead of using energy intensive extraction processes, free osmotic energy from seawater will be used (through FO) for valuable compounds concentration and safe water reuse for irrigation. These challenges will be addressed by 6 work packages:


WP1: Development of FO membranes and modules for RRF

WP2: Enhanced production of biogas, carboxylic acids and fitostimulants

WP3: Optimal usage of the osmotic energy

WP4: Practical operation of FO systems combined with biological processes

WP5: Safe water and nutrients reuse/emerging contaminants and viruses removal

WP6: Process integration, dissemination and valorisation


Principal investigator: Dr Gaëtan Blandin ”la Caixa”



Additional Info

  • Start: 2021
  • Duration: 36 months
  • LEQUIA grant: 299.700 Euros
  • Funding organisation: "La Caixa" foundation
  • Program: Junior Leader Retaining fellowship

Search projects



Funding organisation


Laboratory of Chemical and Enviromental Engineering

Institut de Medi Ambient
Universitat de Girona
Campus Montilivi
17003 Girona

Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la UdG
Edifici Jaume Casademont, Porta B
Pic de Peguera, 15
17003 Girona
Tel. +34 972 41 98 59




Social Media

Follow us on ...

Facebook Twitter Youtube Linkedin

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies. If you not change browser settings, you agree to it. Cookie Policy