APRIORA – Improved risk assessment for strategic water management

The Interreg BSR project ‘APRIORA – Improved risk assessment for strategic water management to reduce micro-pollutant emissions in the Baltic Sea Region’ focuses on the development of a GIS-based risk assessment system that can be used to monitor and model the concentration of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). It enables more efficient investment planning for the expansion of wastewater treatment plants to reduce the emission of pharmaceutical trace substances.

APRIORA addresses the need for a risk-based prioritization for the expansion of wastewater treatment plants with a fourth treatment stage (so-called quaternary treatment) in order to reduce the emission of micropollutants with a focus on active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). As wastewater treatment plants are the main emission pathway for APIs into the environment, the EU Commission’s draft amendment to the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) calls for mandatory quaternary treatment in all wastewater treatment plants with more than 100,000 population equivalents (PE) by 2030 and risk-based prioritization of advanced treatment for wastewater treatment plants between 10,000 and 100,000 PE.

With the amendment, the EU Commission wants to adapt the minimum requirements for wastewater treatment in the member states to the current framework conditions and, above all, integrate the objectives of the Green Deal, in particular zero pollution and energy neutrality, into water law. Accordingly, the responsible regional environmental protection authorities (EPAs) must prioritize risks in cooperation with wastewater treatment plant operators and propose cost-efficient measures for future investments.

However, both target groups lack sufficient information, capacity and tools to do so: API emissions from wastewater treatment plants are not measured, concentrations in surface waters are only available at a few selected monitoring sites; there are no consistent instruments for the required risk assessment (RA) or à priori effect assessment of potential mitigation measures.

APRIORA addresses these deficits by developing and delivering an RA capacity program that (1) combines effective monitoring, modelling and multi-criteria RA, includes an (2) open-source GIS environment, and (3) offers a skills development program to apply (1) + (2) in daily working practice. Together with Baltic Sea-wide transfer and training activities, APRIORA thus contributes to a more efficient strategic water management that improves the status of Baltic Sea waters.

The project has a budget of 2.4 million euros and is part of the “Hazards” policy area of the European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. APRIORA was approved in 2023 as part of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Program for a period of three years. REM Consult accompanied the project development and was commissioned by the University of Rostock (DE) as lead partner with the financial management.