Project 3a


A Novel Solution for Safe and Productive Use of Wastewater


Pre-treated drain water is rich in nutrients that can be used for agricultural purposes. Unfortunately, harmful pollutants, like heavy metals, pathogens and micropollutants are still present. For safe water reuse, these pollutants have to be removed. Our aim is to recover the nutrients and remove the pollutants by developing compact, robust and nature-based Vital Urban Filters (VUFs). This water treatment system will be able to produce safe reusable, nutrient rich water for agricultural purposes while having an added social value through the growing of plants.


The research in our project will start with the selection of filter materials with improved pollutant removal characteristics and plants that are able to grow on (treated) Barapullah drain water. Using the selected filter material and plants, a small scale Vital Urban Filter (VUF) will be constructed. Research will then focus on removal mechanisms of a variety of pollutants. Finally, this information will be used to investigate and improve the efficiency of the system and to develop the design criteria for full scale application.


The Vital Urban Filter is based on the concept of conventional constructed wetland, commonly used in decentralised wastewater management. By using efficient filter materials, a smaller footprint can be achieved. The high porosity and surface area of filter materials make them the perfect biomass carrier that has the benefit of improved sorption and degradation processes. The removal efficiency of the filter can be further improved by growing plants on top of the filter.


Our post-treatment technology offers safe reusable irrigation water which will lead to less pressure on existing potable water sources. The added value of the compact filter is the ability to produce flowers on top of the filters which can be sold. This unique aspect improves social acceptance through providing a source of income and aesthetically appealing green space in urban setting. By sharing our knowledge with stakeholders, (existing) constructed wetlands can be improved to increase the access to safe and clean reusable water.


The developed technology will be able to provide a compact post treatment solution suitable for urban areas. That produces safe reusable water for irrigation purposes. Our technology has the following features:

  • Safe, nutrient-rich irrigation (fertigation) water
  • Flexible: stand alone or combined with other technologies
  • Modular and compact design makes it easy in use
  • Capacity to treat wastewater with varying concentrations of pollutants 
  • Aesthetically pleasing green space – reducing heat island effect
  • Urban farming


The project is a collaboration between the Indian and Dutch research institutes: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and Wageningen University and Research.    

Our contributing partners are:

  • LeAF uses their experience in the development and implementation of localised water treatment and sanitation systems to help us design the filters.
  • Kilian Water assists us in designing the filters and will support us on the effectiveness and reliability of the constructed filters.
  • Drainblock provides materials and expertise for building urban filters in both lab and pilot scales.
  • Greenyard Horticulture provides expertise on the selection of crops and filter materials.
  • RIKILT provides assistance on developing analytical techniques for testing emerging pollutants and antibiotic resistance.
Illustrations: Projekt C| Text: Steef de Valk & Maaike Spuij | Logo: Annemarie van Aken
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