Responsible reduction of nitrates in the comprehensive water cycle

Reference: LIFE16 ENV/ES/000419 | Acronym: LIFE LIBERNITRATE



The use of chemical fertilisers has increased from 14 million tonnes in 1954 to a predicted 200.5 million tonnes in 2018. Nitrogen fertilisers trigger harmful environmental processes, such as eutrophication, acidification, pollution of water resources and emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In Europe, 87% of groundwater contains excess nitrates (European Environment Agency). In intensive farming and cattle-rearing areas, nitrate concentration in groundwater can reach up to seven times the legal limit. The number of areas vulnerable to this pollution has increased, especially in Romania, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Germany and the UK.

Various studies show that the efficacy of soil management measures for decreasing nitrate levels in rivers and groundwater is limited. New strategies are needed in order to speed up the recovery of EU water bodies from nitrate pollution.


Life LIBERNITRATE aims to reduce the concentration of nitrates in the entire water cycle through an integrated innovative, cost-efficient and highly transferrable technology. The proposed solution will be implemented in a pilot plant and will consist of an adsorption bed made of active silica, obtained from waste ashes from generated during the controlled incineration of rice straw. The active silica will be obtained through a second prototype for treating this ash.

The project’s specific objectives are to:

  • Demonstrate a prototype for depuration of water with a high nitrate content through an adsorption bed of active silica, obtained from controlled incineration of rice straw in a spouted bed reactor specifically adapted for this purpose;
  • Validate the active silica beds for reducing nitrate concentrations in the water cycle, acting on groundwater from a well and effluent from an osmosis plant, also reducing the energy costs of the osmosis treatment;
  • Implement a comprehensive awareness-raising procedure for farmers to promote the reduction of nitrates at source; and
  • Develop a study to assess the project’s environmental, social and economic impact.
  • The results of Life LIBERNITRATE will have high potential for replication and are clearly aligned with the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC). At national level, the project focuses on good agricultural practices (Royal Decree 261/1996) and on areas vulnerable to nitrate pollution (Decree 13/2000 of Valencia).

    Expected results:

  • Direct purification of at least 26 m3/day of well water, reducing the nitrate concentration below 50 ppm and close to 25 ppm. The prototype will be directly transferrable to municipalities of 200 inhabitants or fewer;
  • 30% reduction in the concentration of nitrates in 130 litres/day of water effluent - below 50 ppm in drinking water to facilitate compliance with the Nitrates Directive, and in the reject water of a reverse osmosis plant;
  • Reduction of 0.97 kWh per m3 of wastewater treated in the osmosis plant;
  • A guide for farmers designed to facilitate a 20% reduction in their use of nitrogenated fertilisers; and
  • Development of a business plan supporting the replication and transfer of the project and job creation.


    Reference: LIFE16 ENV/ES/000419
    Start Date: 01/10/2017
    End Date: 30/09/2021
    Total Budget: 2,354,292 €
    EU Contribution: 1,412,573 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: CONSORCI DE LA RIBERA.
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Taronger, 116, 46600, Alzira, España
    Contact Person: Plàcid MADRAMANY SANCHIS
    Tel: 34962424641

    LIFE Project Map



    • Water resources protection
    • Water quality improvement


    • waste water treatment
    • groundwater


    • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
    • Directive 91/676 - Protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (12.12.1991)


    Name Type
    CONSORCI DE LA RIBERA. Coordinator
    Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy Participant
    Stichting Incubator, The Netherlands Participant
    La Unió de Llauradors i Ramaders del País Valencià, Spain Participant
    Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain Participant
    AGUAS DE VALENCIA, S.A., Spain Participant
    Universitat de València-Estudi General, Spain Participant
    Diputació de València, Spain Participant