Call: Securing drinking water quality by protecting water sources against pollution, providing innovative monitoring and treatment solutions and ensuring safe distribution
|Type of Fund||Direct Management|
|Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 4: Clean Environment and Zero Pollution"
Anthropogenic pollution undermines the integrity of Earth ecosystems and severely affects natural resources essential for human life. Keeping our planet clean and our ecosystems healthy will not only contribute to addressing the climate crisis but also help regenerate biodiversity, ensure the sustainability of primary production activities and safeguard the well-being of humankind. In line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, particularly its zero pollution ambition, and the 2030 Climate Target Plan, and other relevant EU legislation[[cf. European Green Deal deliverables farm to fork strategy, biodiversity strategy, soil strategy, but also bioeconomy strategy, marine strategy, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development etc., the Missions on Soil Health and Food as well as on Ocean, seas and waters, etc.]], this destination seeks to halt and prevent pollution by focussing the work programme 2021-2022 on fresh and marine waters, soils, air, including from nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, as well as on the environmental performance and sustainability of processes in the bio-based systems. Synergies with other clusters (notably 1 and 5), relevant destinations as well as missions and partnerships will be exploited.
Halting emissions of pollutants to soils and waters is of fundamental significance for the planet. Diffuse emissions of pollutants from land and urban sources, including atmospheric depositions, are a major stress factor for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, threatening the quality of surface waters and aquifers, and affecting soil quality and all water-dependent sectors that require a holistic understanding of the pollution sources, key vectors and pathways. Projected impacts of climate change will alter, and notably reduce, the hydrological flows in many parts of Europe, while eutrophication could be exacerbated by increasing temperatures. Climate change and increasing water demand will exert significant pressures on surface and groundwater quality[[Member States identified that diffuse pollution is still a significant pressure that affects 35 % of the area of groundwater bodies, while quality standards (pesticides, herbicides…) were exceeded in 15 % of the groundwater bodies]], notably where the combined effect of water table depletion and sea level rise will endanger the integrity of coastal aquifers and groundwater quality. This is due to saline water intrusion or extreme events (e.g. higher tides, storm surges or inland flooding events), which will put coastal wetlands and reservoirs, estuaries and ecosystems at risk. While recognising its essential role in aquatic ecosystems functioning and services, the sediments originating mostly from run-off and erosion are likely the major source of physical pollution of water bodies (excessive turbidity, impacts of deposition, accumulation of litter and debris) and contribute to a large extent to chemical and biological pollution of receiving waters. Beside land use practises, the increasing intensity and variability of precipitation will exacerbate erosion risks, affect the deposition and transport of sediments and could lead to a remobilisation of legacy contaminants and further deteriorate the quality of soils, sediments and water bodies, including aquifers, estuaries and coastal areas, and of their ecosystem function and services.
Keeping nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles in balance is another crucial challenge. N and P flows from anthropogenic sources, mostly from excessive or inefficient input of fertilisers (including manure, sewage sludge, etc.) in agriculture, currently exceed planetary boundaries. Their leaching and run-off negatively affect soil biodiversity, pH, organic matter concentration and carbon sequestration capacity, and cause the eutrophication of water bodies while ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions affect air quality and climate. As all environmental media are concerned, a systemic approach is necessary to limit N/P emissions from different sources, for example through the deployment of alternative fertilising products, and considering regional conditions (geography, climate zones, economy activities, soil properties, eco-system condition, agricultural practices, governance structures etc.), and to bring N/P flows back within safe ecological boundaries.
Protecting drinking water and managing water pollution in rural settlements, and in increasingly dense urban areas requires innovative and holistic approaches at city/catchment level to ensure water quality, resilient to the impacts of climate and global change, by considering different spatial and temporal scales and contexts, aging water infrastructures, as well as pollution derived from point and non-point sources, and natural/human-made disasters. Protective measures should consider current and future land use, environmental needs and socioeconomic interests as essential elements for improving water quality and its management and governance. Re-emerging pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) or mercury, and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in water bodies may have impacts on ecological and human health, and some are not well regulated under existing environmental legislation. Sources of these pollutants include e.g. industry, agriculture, urban runoff, household products, coatings, paints and pharmaceuticals that are normally disposed of to sewage treatment plants and subsequently discharged into water bodies. Micro-pollutants, plastics, pathogens and CECs, individually or combined, represent a concern for a safe and good quality drinking water supply. Increasing water temperatures, notably due to climate change could deteriorate the quality of aquatic ecosystems and drinking water sources by favouring the conditions for enhanced eutrophication as well as pathogen development or the spread of invasive species. Emerging concerns are also growing at the level of drinking water treatment and distribution, notably in relation with disinfection operations and possible harmful effects of by-products and metabolites.
Addressing pollution on seas and ocean is a prerequisite for a healthy planet. The ocean is being polluted and destroyed due to the release of substances or energy in marine waters which initiate a range of subsequent effects. According to a new European Environment Agency report, all four regional seas in Europe have a large-scale contamination problem, ranging from 96% of the assessed area in the Baltic Sea and 91% in the Black Sea, to 87% in the Mediterranean and 75% in the North-East Atlantic Ocean. The main sources of pollution include industrial, agricultural and municipal waste runoff, other human activities (e.g. transport), underwater noise, light, atmospheric deposition, etc. into marine waters.
Increasing the environmental performance and sustainability of processes and products plays a significant role in keeping our planet clean. Environmental pollution resulting from human activity is detrimental to ecosystems at different functional levels, representing, also, an important economic burden for society. Circular bio-based systems, including biotechnology, have the potential to substantially contribute to the European Green Deal objectives, provided that they are developed sustainably and systemically aiming at mitigating the climate change and its impacts, increasing resource efficiency and circularity, preserving and restoring ecosystems services, natural resources, air/water/soil quality and biodiversity. Indicators of such sustainability are needed, building on dynamic perspectives at scales ranging, in space, from planetary to local ecosystems and, in time, from next decade to the end of century and beyond. Environmental impacts should be traced along value chains and trades to enable responsible production and consumption.
Pollution must be halted and eliminated to guarantee clean and healthy soils, air, fresh and marine water for all. To reach this objective, it will be paramount to advance the knowledge of pollution sources and pathways to enable preventive measures, improve monitoring and control, apply planetary boundaries in practice and introduce effective remediation methods.
Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contribute to the aforementioned goal to achieve a clean environment and zero pollution, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:
When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.
Actions should develop scientifically robust and transparent approaches and methodologies, building on achievements from previous research activities, where possible and appropriate. To ensure deployment, trustworthiness, swift and wide adoption by user communities, and to support EU and national policy-makers, they should adopt high standards of transparency and openness, going beyond ex-post documentation of results and extending to aspects such as assumptions, models and data quality during the life of projects.
Topics under this destination will address the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”; “Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.
|Link||Link to Programme|
Securing drinking water quality by protecting water sources against pollution, providing innovative monitoring and treatment solutions and ensuring safe distribution
|Description of call
"Securing drinking water quality by protecting water sources against pollution, providing innovative monitoring and treatment solutions and ensuring safe distribution"
In line with the European Green Deal’s zero pollution ambition, successful proposals will contribute to halt and prevent pollution of freshwater and soils, and consequently also protecting biodiversity, as addressed by several impacts under Destination ‘Clean environment and zero pollution’, in particular “Advanced understanding of diffuse and point sources of water pollution in a global and climate changing context, enabling novel solutions to protect water bodies, aquatic ecosystems and soil functionality, and further enhancing water quality and its management for safe human and ecological use, while fostering the European position and role in the global water scene.”
Project results are expected to contribute to some of the following expected outcomes:
The European Union policy framework has secured public safety and health objectives by the Drinking Water, Bathing Water and Floods Directives (EU, 1998, 2006, 2007), and the ongoing development and implementation of minimum requirements for water reuse. Despite the valuable output of implemented measures, some persistent problems are still a major, and sometimes unknown, risk factor for human and ecosystem health. Past contaminated sites and industrial activities managing hazardous chemicals, such as highly persistent compounds, together with agriculture and food production (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics etc.), and household activities release a number of substances that individually or combined represent a concern for the safety of drinking water supplies. Detrimental effects of natural/human-made disasters and increasing water temperatures due to climate change could deteriorate the quality of drinking water sources by favouring the conditions for enhanced eutrophication leading to algal and cyanobacterial outbreaks as well as pathogen development or the spread of invasive species. Emerging concerns are also rising at the level of drinking water treatment and distribution, notably in relation to disinfection operations, materials and products, ageing infrastructure, biofilm growth and possible harmful effects of unintentionally formed by-products and metabolites.
Actions in this field should aim to expand the knowledge base required to identify, assess and prevent pollution threats (micro-pollutants, pathogens, toxins, algal blooms, etc.) and the combined effects of multiple stressors on water sources, including risk assessment and management, to protect drinking water preparation and distribution. Particular attention to extreme weather events and possible synergistic effects affecting hydraulic flows, temperatures and pollutants’ loads should be considered, whenever appropriate.
Advanced water quality assessment needs further development of sensors sensitivity, automated routine monitoring and fast analytical responses that fully integrate IT advances. Proposals in this topic should aim to extend the current analytical capacity to enable among other issues the detection of suspect and non-targeted pollutants, resulting in robust and reliable monitoring systems for consideration in future legislation. They should also consider the requirements of the revised Drinking Water Directive as regards catchment management.
Unintended disinfection by-products (DBP) and interactions with chemical reagents used for drinking water treatment (DWT), engineering and contact materials as well as the combined effects of biofilms formation are emerging as hazardous chemical risks that could affect human health. Proposals in this field should further extend the knowledge base of mechanisms and reactions leading to DBP formation by analysing raw water quality and precursors, as well assessing DWT operational parameters, including disinfection needs, methods and doses. Advanced DWT solutions should explore integrated systems coupling different treatment technologies and strategies enabling the optimization of the operational DWT effectiveness while removing DBP risks.
In general, the participation of academia, research organisations, utilities, industry and regulators is strongly advised, as well as civil society engagement whenever necessary, also aiming to broaden the dissemination and exploitation routes and to better assess the innovation potential of developed solutions and strategies.
If appropriate, applicants are advised to seek complementarities and synergies, while avoiding duplication and overlap, with relevant actions funded under Horizon 2020 calls, as well as targeted topics supported in the last Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe calls, addressing micro/nano-plastics, persistent and mobile pollutants, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pharmaceuticals and contaminants of emerging concerns (CECs), pathogens and antimicrobial resistance. Whenever possible, proposals should consider already developed digital solutions for real-time water monitoring systems. Activities related to water reclamation and reuse, indirect potable use or alternative water sources are beyond the scope of this topic.
In order to better address some or all of the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged.
In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.
|Link||Link to Call|
|Thematic Focus||Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Administration & Governance, Competitiveness, SME, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Consumer Protection|
|Funding area|| EU Member States |
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
|Origin of Applicant|| EU Member States |
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
|Eligible applicants||Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Public Services, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company|
eligible non-EU countries:
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.
Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.
|Project Partner Details|| |
Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:
|Further info|| |
Proposal page limits and layout:
The application form will have two parts:
Page limit - Part B: 45 pages
|Type of Funding||Grants|
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5 by the end of the project.
|Submission||Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.|