During 2012, 91 983 tonnes of pesticides were applied in Spain, of which 8 429 tonnes were applied in Murcia. A total of 250 055 hectares was cultivated in 2012 in Murcia, and more than 60 000 cubic metres of agro-waste water was produced (average 240 litres/ha), in particular from the cultivation of crops to which pesticides are intensively applied.
The European Union Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (2009/128/EC) requires Member States to adopt measures to ensure that the activities of professional pesticide users and, where applicable, distributors, do not endanger human health or the environment. But no real solution is currently available enabling farmers to manage pesticide residues, though there are some recommendations. Current practices and others that are being tested are not fully adequate.
The project will demonstrate a technically, economically and ecologically feasible method by which pesticide residues contained in the waste water produced by farms can be neutralised. The use of innovative equipment will allow pesticide remnants in containers and treatment tanks and rinse water from tanks after cleaning of machines and equipment to be dealt with.
The project will develop a pilot waste-water decontamination facility to be tested on five farms. It will use a solar photocatalysis degradation process. The system uses solar energy (UV irradiation), sodium peroxodisulphate (Na2S2O8) and a catalyst (TiO2 and ZnO). The catalyst is recovered at the end of the process for its reuse. Treated waste water is no longer contaminated and can be used again for any purpose (e.g. irrigation).
Expected results: The main result of the project will be the development of an on-site waste-water decontamination plant able to completely degrade pesticides without generating any other residue.
The main expected long-term achievement of the project is the implementation of the AQUEMFREE system in medium-sized and large farms, which would provide a solution for 80-90% of this environmental problem, at least in Mediterranean farms because of solar irradiation conditions.