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Topic "Separation at source

Promote water and nutrient recovery from domestic water

Urban metabolism is a major consumer of water, nutrients and energy, much of which ends up in wastewater. Source separation is a major prospect to promote the recovery of water and nutrients from domestic water.

Currently, the minerals and nutrients in urine and the organic matter in our wastewater are diluted in huge volumes of water. This makes it very difficult to recover and valorize these resources at the wastewater treatment plant. We must get out of this "end of pipe" vision. But given the important structural changes that this requires in our society, it is essential to develop research to evaluate the different technological solutions through an environmental analysis, a technical and social evaluation, and to develop or optimize innovative low-impact processes, in order to guide the pioneers who are embarking on the adventure.

The work carried out in the team aims to evaluate solutions for source separation and to find solutions for recovery, these works have two axes:

  1. Evaluation of scenarios with integrated modeling tools including the whole system "urban planning, network, recovery process".
  2. Development of technologies to transform these wastes into bio-sourced fertilizers for future potentially urban crops

We develop tools to model wastewater management systems in the city, at the scale of a habitat, the neighborhood, or the entire city, and this in a way coupled with environmental assessment. This approach allows us to highlight scientific and technical issues and obstacles to be resolved, to set constraints and to guide towards choices adapted to different types of urban planning.

At the same time, we are investigating low-energy processing methods, including processes for producing liquid nitrogenous fertilizers from urine or blackwater digestates. And finally, we are developing the first vacuum toilets with selective urine separation, with very low water consumption.

Séparation à la source

Ongoing projects

KOLOS Project


The Kolos project brings together two laboratories, TBI and LEESU, and a local authority, the Lyon metropolitan area. Avec une approche multi-disciplinaire, l’enjeu est de modéliser et évaluer des scénarios socio-techniques, des technologies innovantes et des organisations opérationnelles, pour gérer de manière nouvelle les excrétats humains en les déconnectant des effluents domestiques. Thus, the KOLOS project aims to develop new local, sustainable and circular channels for the management of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, contained in human excreta and to understand their conditions for success.


DESIGN Project


The DESIGN project is funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) on the main societal challenge: Mobility and sustainable urban systems. It aims to develop and evaluate innovative scenarios for source separation and wastewater recovery. The challenge of the project is to evaluate the real benefits and constraints of these alternative approaches by integrating different criteria:

  • on the environmental level, by evaluating the different solutions through life cycle analysis;
  • from a technological and economic point of view: by developing key technologies for new sectors, i.e. vacuum toilets that do not currently exist, a new technology for recovering ammoniacal nitrogen to produce a fertilizer; (see N and P recovery theme)
  • from a sociological point of view, by measuring the capacity of appropriation of these new devices of management of human discharges and decentralized systems by the communities, the users and the professionals of the urban environment;
  • finally, from an urban planning point of view, by assessing the suitability of source separation scenarios for different urban typologies.

The DESIGN project brings together two research laboratories, two design offices specialized in the environment, and two companies developing innovative equipment.

Livrables disponibles sur

  • Évaluation de scénarios de séparation à la source des effluents domestiques pour une minimisation des impacts environnementaux : développement d’une approche de modélisation à l’échelle urbaine. Thèse Université de Toulouse. Directeur de thèse : Mathieu Spérandio et Etienne Paul
  • Besson, M., Berger, S., Tiruta-barna, L., Paul, E., Spérandio, M., 2021. Environmental assessment of urine, black and grey water separation for resource recovery in a new district compared to centralized wastewater resources recovery plant. Journal of Cleaner Production 301, 126868.
  • Besson, M., Tiruta-Barna, L., Paul, E., Sperandio, M., 2022. La séparation à la source pour une récupération des ressources : outil d’évaluation environnementale: Source separation for resource recovery: a tool for environmental assessment. TSM 5, 41–48.



As part of the MOCOPEE (MOdélisation, Contrôle et Optimisation des Procédés d'Epuration des Eaux) applied research program of the Syndicat interdépartemental pour l'assainissement de l'agglomération parisienne (SIAAP), a research project is devoted to the collection and selective treatment of urine adapted to the city of Paris. The aim is to evaluate the benefits of different separation scenarios in order to guide strategic choices. For this purpose, different types of urine separation were investigated (uniformly, or specifically in offices or in housing). The impact on the SIAAP treatment plants was then quantified.

  • Matar, G., Besson, M., Mas, J., Azimi, S., Rocher, V., Sperandio, M., 2022. Modelling the benefits of urine source separation scenarios on wastewater treatment plants within an urban water basin. Water Science and Technology wst2022208.

MUSES Project


logo mUSES

The MUSES project "Urban Modeling of Effluent Separation at Source" is funded by the Adour-Garonne Water Agency.

This is a partnership project between the TBI-INSA laboratory in Toulouse and the associative company SOLAGRO. The objective of the project is to evaluate, through modeling, different scenarios for new wastewater management methods at the neighborhood and city levels. The goal is to integrate all the issues related to this new management in our approach to urban systems. By developing a decision support tool, this work should guide the testing of technological platforms towards the most promising scenarios in terms of technical feasibility, economic realism and even acceptability.

Thesis of Ana Barbara Bisinella de Faria


Publications :

  • Bisinella de Faria, A.B., Spérandio, M., Ahmadi, A., Tiruta-Barna, L., 2015. Evaluation of new alternatives in wastewater treatment plants based on dynamic modelling and life cycle assessment (DM-LCA). Water Research 84, 99–111.
  • de Faria, A.B.B., Ahmadi, A., Tiruta-Barna, L., Spérandio, M., 2016. Feasibility of rigorous multi-objective optimization of wastewater management and treatment plants. Chemical Engineering Research and Design 115, 394–406.
  • Igos, E., Besson, M., Navarrete Gutiérrez, T., Bisinella de Faria, A.B., Benetto, E., Barna, L., Ahmadi, A., Spérandio, M., 2017. Assessment of environmental impacts and operational costs of the implementation of an innovative source-separated urine treatment. Water Research 126, 50–59.
  • Bisinella de Faria, A.B., Besson, M., Ahmadi, A., Udert, K.M., Spérandio, M., 2020. Dynamic Influent Generator for Alternative Wastewater Management with Urine Source Separation. Sustainable Water Built Environ. 6, 04020001.

The SMS project, with a global budget of 1.6 M€ over 4 years, was financed up to 1 M€ by the Adour Garonne Water Agency and the French Agency for Biodiversity. The project consortium was made up of local authorities (SIVOM-SAGe), research laboratories (TBI, LGC, Ecolab) and SMEs (Adict, JP Coste, Ozoval). The objective of this project was to perform a multi-criteria evaluation (compound elimination and ecotoxicity performance, economics and acceptability) of a new urban wastewater treatment process based on urine source separation (see Micropollutants theme).

  • Virtual visit of the demonstration platform:
  • Document de synthèse.
  • Publication :
    • I. Gonzalez-Salgado, L. Cavaillé, S. Dubos, E. Mengelle, C. Khim, M. Bounouba, E. Paul, S. Pommier, Y. Bessiere. “Combining Thermophilic Aerobic Reactor (TAR) with Mesophilic Anaerobic digestion (MAD) improves the degradation of pharmaceutical compounds”. Water Research.