Nextgen is exploring an augmented reality app to help engage citizens on water reuse

The water industry is exploring Augmented Reality (AR) as one of the technologies to accelerate circular solutions implementation. In the H2020 Nextgen project, the demo site in Athens investigates AR as a tool to help increase public engagement on water reuse.

Sewer mining in Athens

Located in Goudi, a decentralised “sewer mining” unit treats sewage water that is reused at the nearby urban tree nursery. The demo site explores three aspects of the circular economy: optimisation of water resources, nutrient mining and reuse and energy generator practices.

The application consists of a small pumping station that pumps wastewater from the local sewage network to a membrane bioreactor (MBR) unit. Wastewater is treated by biological treatment for organic oxidation and nitrification, denitrification, and membrane filtration. After the MBR unit, the water goes to UV disinfection before the high-quality reclaimed water is suitable for irrigation and aquifer recharge during the winter.

A look behind the curtain

The AR app allows people to “see behind the curtain” and engage in a circular development. While Virtual Reality (VR) transports the user into an immersed environment, often in a fully enclosed headset, AR instead layers computer-generated imagery on top of the real world. As the “sewer mining” unit is effectively a “closed box”, the AR app, currently in beta testing phase, would allow passers-by to “see inside the container” and visualise the water recycling process on their smartphones. The AR app could facilitate the understanding of and hence engagement for the concept of reuse.


The app also has an educational component. Gamification aspects such as badging, an award system, quiz, survey feedback, and many other features will enable users to learn while engaging in circular economy principles.

Dr Katika, a researcher at the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) in Athens, believes the app could also help people view the benefits of circularity closer to home. “We are also trying to demonstrate and help people to visualise how life could be different when we use circular economy practices,” she adds. “For example, you can use the app to understand how much water you use in your household.”

High replication potential

“The sewer mining project in Athens has a very high replication potential across European cities,” says Jos Frijns, a researcher at KWR Water Research Institute. “This is a good example of local circular water solutions that also positively benefit a system level. In this case, the irrigation of urban parks with reclaimed water will alleviate heat stress due to climate change. Public engagement is an important success factor for the implementation of circular water solutions. It is exciting to see how the AR app will not only visualise the technologies to the public but also will contribute to the general understanding of the overall benefits of circular solutions.”