Circular economy


We define circular economy as the efforts to promote  the reuse of scarce resources and optimize water quality management in the water cycle. We focus on the urban environment and build on one of the main pillars in the recent WssTP Vision, being the ‘true value of water’. More specific we focus on the following topics.

  • Exploiting the energy-water-food interface
  • Multiple waters for multiple purposes (water reuse, water roundabouts)
  • Exploiting the value in the water cycle (recovery and upcycling of nutrients and energy)
  • Developing supportive governance arrangements, including societal impact

Opportunities and challenges for the water sector

The circular economy concepts and practices will generate benefits for the water utilities in terms of costs, sustainability and image. A main challenge for them is to adopt the proper technologies and practices, to link to interrelated utility sectors such as agriculture, food, waste and energy and to develop marketable products and services. ARC members can develop and provide knowledge to address these barriers.

ARC position and activities

The ARC membership is well positioned to boost the transition of their water utilities to circularity by:

  • Sharing knowledge and best practices in ARC
  • Scanning and testing promising technologies and practices
  • Demonstrating selected promising technologies
  • Developing adequate governance systems including frameworks for Risk Assessment and Risk Management

Within the ARC membership many projects are already ongoing which could be considered for further cooperative efforts. Examples are given below.

Exploiting the energy-water-food interface

  • Biogas from waste water, including co-digestion
  • Proteins from waste water
  • The Hydrogen economy
  • Energy recovery and reuse from water mains, sewers, waste water treatment plants

Multiple waters for multiple purposes (water reuse, water roundabouts)

  • Fresh water subsurface storage and recovery
  • Wastewater upgrading and reuse
  • Rain water harvesting

Exploiting the value in the water cycle

  • phosphorous recovery from wastewater for fertilizer production
  • cellulose from wastewater for bioplastics
  • calcium carbonate from drinking water softening plants for the glass and carpet industry
  • Iron sludge from drinking water for P-removal in waste water treatment plants and S-binding in biogas plants

Developing supportive governance arrangements, including societal impact

  • Social, cultural and legal barriers and promotors
  • Governance arrangements for multi-stakeholder cooperation, responsibilities and award allocation

Steps forward

  • Inventorise ongoing projects in this area within the ARC membership.
  • Identify ARC topics for collaboration and set up of joint projects.
  • Promote funding opportunities through linkage with the WssTP Working Group Resource Recovery.