Water - Energy - Nutrient Nexus in the Cities of the Future

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Civil and Environmental Engineering


With the rapid urbanization and growing population, some of the main issues in sustainable management of wastewater in cities include the protection of water resources, high energy demand in the operation of wastewater treatment facilities and direct disposal of treated effluent/by-products resulting in loss of opportunity to recover nutrients. Urban water and wastewater systems in particular are energy intensive starting from water abstraction to treatment and disposal. In large cities the management of wastewater is becoming quite important due to implications on the productivity of the aquatic environment, including critical water resources, and people's quality of life specially those who are disadvantaged in many countries.

The cities of the future needs to be evolved with integrated planning of wastewater, energy and resource management. Recovery of resources from wastewater would not only supply nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the form of renewable fertilizer, but also it will reduce the energy demands in the production of fertilizers. Moreover, clean water can be produced which will further reduce pumping energy requirement for water supply in most cases. In particular, the use of recycled phosphorus in urban farming and agriculture in the cities of future would ensure the booming future populations can survive. In view of the booming population and associated nutritional requirements of future generations food production must increase significantly.

This project (NexCities) will lay the groundwork for future research and knowledge application on systematic understanding of complex interrelations within a newly proposed concept of Water - Energy - Nutrient nexus, as a critical subset of broader Energy-Food-Water-Environment Nexus. A participatory stakeholder model based on fuzzy cognitive maps will be adopted to understand broader implication of Water - Energy - Nutrient nexus. This project aims beyond theoretical projections related to wastewater treatment and nutrient recycling, and particularly targets generation of new data by conducting systematic experimental investigation on quantities of nutrient and energy resources and their flows in Metro Manila wastewater.

Planned Impact

The aim of NexCities project is to establish new research collaboration to address the issues of global importance. NexCities will bring consortium of interdisciplinary and multinational researchers together to address the problems of the cities of future. Through this project the consortium of researchers with a wide range of expertise will identify the critical elements of Energy-Food-Water-Environment Nexus, and will deliver knowledge and information that will have both short and long term impacts on the welfare and well being of general public, and particularly disadvantaged communities.

In short term the organisations such as water utilities in Metro Manila and in the UK will be benefited from the knowledge generated in this project. Also, research organisations, international agencies, Philippines government departments, social groups and policy institutions will be benefited by the outcomes of this project. Considering both energy and fertilizer prices in the Philippines, new knowledge generated in this project will have a long term impact on the local businesses, farmers and social communities.


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Description Following are the key findings, showing the objectives have been met, as planned. The final project meeting (30 April-01 May 2019) took place in the partner country, Philippines. The final project meeting was hosted by the partner country lead partner, De La Salle University.

1. The potential of fertiliser recovery from human waste in Metro Manila has been established, with scientific evidence and data to assist the industry and other stakeholders who can utilise the knowledge for long-term impact in the Philippines.
2. Joint publications have been produced which disseminates the outcomes influenced by the interactions with the local stakeholders in the Philippines. Benefit to the academic community has been established through direct impact on joint collaborative research.

(i) Pausta, C., Razon, L., Promentilla, M. and Saroj, D., (2018). Life Cycle Assessment of a Retrofit Wastewater Nutrient Recovery System in Metro Manila. Chemical Engineering Transactions. 70, 337-342. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3303/CET1870057
(ii) Nochefranca et al 2020 IOP Conf. Ser.: Mater. Sci. Eng. 778 012141. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1757-899X/778/1/012141

3. Engagement with other academic institutions (University of the Philippines Los Banos, De La Salle Araneta University's Salikneta Farm) and NGOs (Society of the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, SCPW) have resulted in further collaboration and interest in knowledge uptake.
4. One of the main outcomes of the project is the stronger stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange for actual and anticipated impact of the project. Following are the specific findings of stakeholder engagement:

-Identification of key stakeholders in the UK and Philippines for stronger impact in the sectors of wastewater management and agriculture supported by fertiliser generated from urban sewage.
-Better understanding of the factors influencing the uptake of knowledge generated in the project, particularly benefitting marginalised communities, small farmers, local groups and other stakeholders in the Philippines.
-Identification of potential partners for long-term research collaboration between the UK and Philippines partners of the project, focusing on economic development and social welfare in the Philippines.

The project has been selected as the winner of the Newton Prize 2019 for the Philippines- this has been announced at a reception in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday 28 January. The prize was presented to project leads on 12 February 2020 in London in the presence of UK's Minister of Science, Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP.
The project has further demonstrated a solution to convert wastewater into fertiliser. The outcomes are able to show using data analysis that almost 5 million kilos of phosphate from sewage can be recovered from a single zone in the region for use as fertiliser. If extended to the whole of metropolitan Manila this could result in increasing recovery to over 620 million kilos. These projected data have been shared with two key stakeholders: Salikneta farm (Bulacan, Philippines) and Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc (Metro Manila). These two specific stakeholders have become partner in the implementation of Philippines's first full-scale demonstration of fertiliser production from human waste. The Newton Prize 2019 funding has supported the demonstration project (01-08-2020 to 31-12-2021).
Exploitation Route 1. This project has established stronger engagement with potential academic partners in the Philippines who will continue to collaborate for joint research and knowledge exchange, including joint research proposals (e.g. Global Challenges Research Fund grant applications).
2. Uptake of knowledge by the partner water company (Maynilad Water Services Inc., Philippines) and other industries and NGOs (representing interests of marginalised communities) in the Philippines for long-term impact on urban wastewater management practices and policies in the Philippines.
3. The outcome has been taken forward by winning Newton Prize 2019 (Philippines category) which has provided £200K support for implementing the technology for the first time in the Philippines.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Other

URL https://www.newtonfund.ac.uk/news/latest-news/newton-prize-clean-water-project-is-fertile-ground-for-uk-philippines-team/
Description The activities supported by this award included, additional stakeholder engagement activities focused on broader and inclusive participation of stakeholders from various sectors; and knowledge exchange activity in collaboration with broader stakeholder groups including academic institutions, government agencies, NGOs and the private sector through a workshop in the Philippines. The project addresses the problem of the rapidly urbanising areas in the Philippines by underpinning the elements of water, energy and resources embedded in urban sewage. The stakeholder engagement activities were carried out for improved knowledge uptake and stimulate long-term impact in the Philippines. Following economic and societal impacts have been observed arising from the award: 1. Knowledge exchange with stakeholders, including regulatory bodies and water companies in the Philippines, was achieved through engagement events during last two years (2017-2019), resulting in formal industry-academia agreement in Philippines (Between De La Salle University and Maynilad Inc.) and recognition of scientific progress by the government and regulatory authorities dealing with water quality (Laguna Lake Development Authority, LLDA). Furthermore, capacity building was embedded through knowledge exchange and training of early career researchers (ECRs), including PGR students from UK and Philippines. One female PGR was hosted at the University of Surrey who received training opportunities to support her skills and academic leadership capacity development. Equality, diversity and inclusion was ensured in all the knowledge exchange and stakeholder engagement activities, by encouraging participation from all the groups. 2. Strategic dissemination of the project outcomes (on fertiliser recovery from sewage) in the form of invited talks at several organisations to accelerate knowledge exchange and application for the benefit of the partner country, Philippines. The dissemination of the findings on fertiliser recover from wastewater has gained interest from the NGO and social sector (in the Philippines) and the UK industry, and this was reflected in the stakeholder engagement events in the UK (at University of Surrey) and Philippines (at De La Salle University). The findings of the project are therefore being taken up across the sectors for long term impact contributing to economic development and social welfare in the Philippines, contributing to several sustainable development goals (SDGs) (main focus on SDGs 6 and 11; "Clean Water and Sanitation" and "Sustainable Cities and Communities"). 3. Engagement with local industry in the Philippines (Maynilad Water Services Inc.), who has provided initial data for the assessment of the ideas on resource recovery from wastewater in the Philippines, has indicated the potential for economic impact. This has formed the basis for adopting new approaches to assess their wastewater management strategy, particularly in Metro Manila, Philippines. The stakeholder engagement activities were planned to facilitate the groups who have the potential for better knowledge uptake, for bringing economic development among marginalised communities. The representation from farmers and small communities was particularly ensured for empowering them with new ideas on nutrient recycle from human waste and wastewater. Therefore, this project has particularly benefitted the low-income and marginalised communities in the ODA partner country, Philippines. The results of the initial research show that the application of fertilizer recovery idea in a specific zone of Metro Manila (population 80, 000) serviced by the in-country industry partner (Maynilad Inc.) will result in the annual recovery of 4,986 kg of phosphate as fertilizer which otherwise would flow into the aquatic environment causing Eutrophication (pollution). In future small farmers can be involved in new wastewater-recovered fertilizer sector, since small farmers are affected by the price of fertilizer that has increased during the last few years from USD20 to USD35 per unit. The results provide benchmarking to accelerate further knowledge uptake to address the problem of water pollution and poor sanitation coverage due to lack of resources, particularly in low-income and deprived residential areas. The project has particularly addressed the development challenges in the Philippines. The impact of the project goes beyond academia and business due to disproportionate impact on the larger urban (low-income) population of Metro Manila, nearly 10 million inhabitants (or on the whole country if applied widely in future), typically serviced (in terms of sanitation) by ill-maintained septic tanks without connection to centralized sewerage. Knowledge exchange with stakeholders, including regulatory bodies and water companies in the Philippines, was achieved through engagement events during two years (2017-2019), resulting in formal industry-academia agreement in Philippines (Between De La Salle University and Maynilad Inc.) and recognition of scientific progress by the government and regulatory authorities dealing with water quality (Laguna Lake Development Authority, LLDA). Agriculture-related businesses have taken interest in the project to solve arising challenges in food security due to global phosphorus demand (fertilizer). Moreover, the proposed solution could help lower the crop production costs and maximize the potential income of local farmers in the across Southeast Asian countries. 4. Installation and running of first nutrient recovery plant in the Philippines was completed recently as part of Newton Prize (2019) project. This plant has been installed within the premises of Salikneta Farm (Agrivet Sciences Institute, De La Salle Araneta University, Philippines) where septage from septic tanks is processed to produce nutrient-rich slow-release fertiliser to be used for growing plants and vegetables. The project webpage provides all the information about the nutrient recovery plant (https://nexcities.org/)
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Carla Mae Pausta
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact One researcher from Philippines visited the University of Surrey for a research collaboration and training on laboratory skills. She (Miss Carla Mae Pausta) gained laboratory knowledge and skills and returned to the De La Salle University to support the research and training activities in the Philippines.
Description Assessing the Spatial Resilience of an Island Community in the Philippines through Companion Modelling for Disaster Risk and Recovery Planning
Amount £69,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 332260523 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2021
Description Newton PhD Scholarships 2019 - Philippines: The assessment of the impact of nutrient recovery for improving urban wastewater management and protecting water quality in lakes using the case study of Laguna de Bay, Philippines
Amount £121,700 (GBP)
Funding ID 537006268 
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 03/2023
Description Newton Prize 2019 (Philippines)
Amount £199,226 (GBP)
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 03/2021
Description Newton Prize 2019 
Organisation De La Salle Araneta University
Country Philippines 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution New collaborations have emerged through Newton Prize 2019 award, which was achieved based on the outcomes of the project. The PIs of the project have jointly received this prize which is based on the proposal for materialising the outcomes of the project The Newton Prize award execution (April 2020 to March 2021) involves new partners in the Philippines, a farm based at project partner institution, Salikneta Farm (at De La Salle Araneta University), and a non-for-profit environmental protection and social-work organisation, Society of the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands (Philippines).
Collaborator Contribution University of Surrey (UK), Nottingham (UK) and De La Salle University have jointly proposed the impact-focused project which is awarded Newton prize. The Newton Prize is led by led by both UK and Philippines PIs in collaboration with other partner, Professor Michele Clarke (University of Nottingham), and two new impact-focused partners from the Philippines, Salikneta Farm and Society of the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands. This new collaboration with impact-focused partners will help delivering Philippine's first demonstration of fertiliser recovery from human waste.
Impact Newton Prize 2019 https://www.newtonfund.ac.uk/news/latest-news/newton-prize-clean-water-project-is-fertile-ground-for-uk-philippines-team/
Start Year 2019
Description Stakeholder Engagement Workshop, Manila, Philippines 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The stakeholder engagement workshop was held at the De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines, to engage with the key stakeholders of the project. The UK and Philippines based PIs introduced the initial findings and ambitions of the project to the local partners and stakeholders. The stakeholders were engaged and encouraged to provide their feedback on the strategies for knowledge uptake and long-term impact of the project. The workshop was used as the platform for identifying the barriers to knowledge uptake and potential application of the findings on the recovery of resources from wastewater in the Metro Manila, Philippines. The industry partner, Maynilad Water Services Inc, actively participated in the project and signed MoU with the Philippines based lead institution, De La Salle University, for long-term collaboration in the field of wastewater management. The participants concluded that the recovery of resources in the form of nutrients (fertiliser) from wastewater is an important area of innovation for long-term impact on sustainable wastewater management in growing cities such as Metro Manila (Philippines). The stakeholders agreed that the follow-on workshop to be hosted by the University of Surrey in the UK will be beneficial to the project and that the UK stakeholder can provide further input and feedback for wider impact of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://twitter.com/nexcities
Description Stakeholder Engagement for Newton prize 2019 (Philippines) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The stakeholder engagement activity was focused on identifying two specific future partners to materialise the outcomes of the project through Newton Prize 2019. To achieve a wider impact of the project outcomes, two new in-country (Philippines) partners were carefully selected during the stakeholder analysis process, Salikneta Farm and Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands (SCPW). Through the successful Newton Prize project the team will work to test the outcomes on the ground by installing a full-scale fertiliser production plant and monitor its impact on agricultural output. The lessons learned from the fertiliser recovery as well as fertiliser application stages will be included in stakeholder engagement through participatory approach and the findings will be shared through various modes of dissemination including local and national media to demonstrate the impact of the project on marginalised communities, small businesses and NGOs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.newtonfund.ac.uk/news/latest-news/newton-prize-clean-water-project-is-fertile-ground-for...
Description Workshop on Resource Recovery from Municipal Wastewater 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The stakeholder workshop in the Philippines provided a platform for the local stakeholders, representing low-income communities, to engage with other stakeholders from the UK and Philippines. The knowledge exchange activities in this project were focused on establishing stronger collaboration with NGOs and local bodies who represent marginalise communities in the ODA partner country, Philippines.


The stakeholder engagement workshop held and supported by this grant was highlighted in the local media (Manila, Philippines)
1. https://www.manilatimes.net/dlsu-hosts-workshop-on-water-management-and-resource-recovery/467485/
2. https://www.pressreader.com/philippines/philippine-daily-inquirer/20181119/282449940061849
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.manilatimes.net/dlsu-hosts-workshop-on-water-management-and-resource-recovery/467485/