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What circular economy partnerships can Veolia form with agri-food companies and farmers, especially for re-use of treated wastewater in irrigation?

“Although our main business is in municipal water, I’m convinced that there’s potential for cooperation between the agricultural sector and Veolia,” said Antoine Frérot, Chairman and CEO of Veolia, as far back as 2013. We have formed several partnerships in this area, especially with major manufacturing companies like Danone, centering on four main subjects: water cycle management, waste management and plastics recycling, sustainable agriculture, and energy efficiency. We have also partnered with InVivo, France’s biggest farming cooperative, to develop the circular economy in the agricultural sector by focusing on four key topics: water resource management, re-use of treated wastewater for irrigation, urban agriculture and digital solutions.

In addition, Veolia is a partner in the Irri-Alt'Eau project developed in the Gruissan municipality in southeastern France. The project’s aim is to make an alternative source of water available to one or more vineyards by transporting treated, filtered water directly from the nearby wastewater treatment plant. The process has been trialed as part of a collaborative research program with an SME, a winemaking cooperative, France’s national institute of agricultural research (INRA) and various laboratories. The results showed that treated wastewater could be used in winegrowing in total safety (it contains no chemical residues or pathogenic bacteria), the quality of the grapes and wine is not affected in any way, and the vines react just as well to treated wastewater as to conventional resources. The solution has the potential for large-scale deployment, especially as only 2% of the world’s wastewater is currently recycled while water stress is on the increase due to climate change. Europe has a draft directive under consideration to set minimum standards for treated wastewater re-use.