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Latest EU effluent reuse regulations issued

Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-11-08      Origin: Site

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Climate change, population growth and urbanisation have raised concerns about water scarcity in many EU countries (particularly in the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal regions), but a new regulation will ease these growing pressures and mark a move towards a circular economy.


The European Parliament adopted a new Water Reuse Regulation on 13 May 2020. The regulation sets out the minimum requirements for the safe use of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation and applies to reclaimed water delivered through collection systems and treated at municipal water recycling facilities (WRRFs).


According to the EU Council's position statement of 17 March, the new regulation is expected to promote wider reuse of reclaimed water, reduce the discharge of treated wastewater to surface water and promote water savings through multiple uses of municipal wastewater, while protecting the water environment.


In Europe, although treated wastewater has been recognised for many years as a sustainable alternative to water supply with great potential to relieve pressure on freshwater supplies, its reuse in irrigation and other industrial applications is still limited in practice. According to the European Environment Agency, agriculture currently accounts for around 50% of the EU's annual water use.


Simona Bonafé, MEP from Italy, said in a press release from the European Parliament on 13 May that the new reuse law marks an important milestone in achieving concrete results in the transition to a circular economy for water. She said.

water treatment

Compared to the current 1.1 billion cubic metres per year, we have the potential to increase the reuse of wastewater to 6.6 billion cubic metres per year by 2025.


This would require an investment of less than €700 million (US$767 million) and would theoretically allow for the reuse of more than half of the effluent from current EU wastewater treatment plants for irrigation, reducing the amount of water taken from water bodies and groundwater for direct irrigation by 5%.


While existing EU legislation such as the Municipal Waste Water Treatment Directive (1991) and the Water Framework Directive (2000) allow and encourage the reuse of water, the new law rules include specific requirements relating to water quality, water supply and wastewater management that are expected to increase public confidence in the use of reclaimed water in agricultural production for food supply across the EU.


For wastewater treatment operators, the regulation requires that


The effluent from wastewater plants to meet minimum requirements for recycled water quality. The regulation sets out specific requirements for four different water quality classes. For edible crops where the "edible portion is produced above ground and does not come into direct contact with reclaimed water", the reclaimed water used must undergo secondary and tertiary treatment; for edible crops and food crops where the edible portion comes into direct contact with reclaimed water, the reclaimed water needs to undergo secondary, tertiary and advanced treatment. II of the regulations specify these requirements.


Reclaimed water quality must be regularly monitored


Recycled water suppliers and end users must negotiate a risk management plan to address potential additional hazards


Wastewater plants are required to obtain a permit issued by the authorities of the EU member states based on water quality conditions.


In order to promote public acceptance of water reuse, the law requires Member States that use reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation to share information on reclaimed water reuse and to organise public awareness campaigns on the value of using reclaimed water for irrigation.


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