Lebanese tech start-up Mrüna tackles the economic and social challenges of wastewater treatment with its decentralised nature-based system, BiomWeb
Mrüna has been crowned the winner of the Global Infrastructure Hub’s global innovation competition, InfraChallenge. This followed a live pitch against nine other finalists from the UK, US, Sierra Leone, Australia, Mexico, Singapore and Spain.
BiomWeb first came about when Mrüna founder, Ziad Hussami, witnessed firsthand the amount of time, energy, and resources required to build a sewer network.
Traditional wastewater utilities consist of two essential components: a centralized plant, attended by a team of skilled operators, and a vast sewer network. Astonishingly, 80% of the construction cost is for the sewer network, including pumping stations, concrete sewer lines, precast manholes, and an army of engineers to get it accomplished.
It begged the question, “Why are we spending a fortune to send precious water many kilometers away to a treatment plant, to then only bring it back in a tanker truck to irrigate the landscaping?” Perhaps this strategy made sense in water-rich England at the turn of the 20th century, but why do we continue to pursue the same strategy throughout the world?
In Lebanon, the county’s largest river is overflowing with sewage, poising the environment and the people who eat the crops it irrigates. Donors pay a fortune to vacuum wastewater from Informal Settlements which have overwhelmed nearby treatment stations. To add insult to injury, most of the vacuum trucks dump their cargo in the river to save fuel, knowing full well the treatment stations are at over capacity anyway.
NGOs, Governments, and Real Estate Developers continue to invest billions of dollars a year on outdated technologies and strategies. Consequently, international donors have funded treatment plants which have never seen a day of operation since their ribbon cutting ceremony. Simply because carving a sanitation network up the splendid mountains of Lebanon will cost many times more than the treatment plant itself, never mind the operating budget.
In Lebanon, a one size fits all centralized sanitation strategy is worse than unsustainable greenwashing. It puts peoples’ lives and a nation’s precious resources at risk.
In recent years business and society as a whole have experienced a fundamental shift, fueled by technology, toward a more decentralized organizational structure. Take for example smart power grids that feed electricity back into the network and our newly minted Zoom enabled home offices.
Unfortunately, it appears this shift has skipped the wastewater sector almost entirely. A sector which continues to rely on a model that is not much different than the cities of ancient Rome. Basically, build a conduit to send the “waste” out, as rapidly and as far away, as possible into the nearest water body.
The industry clearly needs a revolution not a sustainability certification to greenwash the obsolete techno-economic path dependencies of a traditional sector. Other startups and established design firms are innovating new methods to exploit new technologies, however some of these innovations are simply innovating more efficient ways to conduct business as usual.
What the world needs is a comprehensive solution which will rapidly transform how wastewater is managed in periurban regions. Internationally, a key to scalability will be attracting blended financing arrangements adapted to local needs and circumstances, with an emphasis on financing that also generates social and environmental benefit. Investing in local capacities, skills and competencies institutional arrangements based on sharing costs and risks among users, investors, and establishments thus facilitating the process.
BiomWeb offers a platform to implement a paradigm shift that addresses the design, construction, and operational requirements needed to implement a decentralized and resilient sanitation infrastructure strategy. This solution promotes a formidable alliance among nature, IoT, and SMEs’ that will disrupt centralized sanitation utilities in the same way solar and smart-grids have done to energy utilities.
How it works
Biomweb is a decentralized nature-based wastewater treatment system that is here to transform wastewater
treatment. The solution is simple and elegant: it treats wastewater onsite with a series of water tanks that imitate aquatic habitats found in nature. It also does not require added chemicals, desludging, or vast infrastructure investment.
BiomWeb looks like a bouquet and reuses the treated wastewater for irrigation. Complemented by the power of the Internet of Things, owners can monitor and control the system remotely with a smartphone. The smart windmill also makes it very energy efficient.
A suite of tools will empower SMEs to charge customers based on usage, and rapidly replace vacuum trucks with BiomWeb.
- Sensors: Will allow us to remotely monitor via a web application the following: volumes of water, TDS, water temperature, and electrical power consumption.
- Web Application: Will store data transmitted from the sensors and allow clients to monitor their wastewater treatment services. Additionally, it will set the stage to connect a network of customers, and service providers who have adopted the above set of technologies, to locally and collectively manage water surplus among each other depending on demand.
- Intelligent Dosing Retention time of wastewater is a key parameter for successful treatment. Most wastewater volumes are generated during the daytime. Efficiency can be maximised by algorithmically rationing the dosing of wastewater from the holding tank to the system over an entire 24-hour period.
- Smart Windmill: Pressure alternates aeration between an electric pump and renewable wind energy based on the presence of local wind speeds. Further reducing energy consumption.