Non-potable wastewater reuse will alleviate water scarcity, says EU

Non-potable wastewater reuse will alleviate water scarcity, says EU
European Commissioner Karmenu Vella © Annika Haas (EU2017EE)

New measures to facilitate non-potable wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation will alleviate water scarcity concerns, the European Commission has announced.

The new regulations allowing non-potable wastewater reuse will create a sustainable supply of water for agricultural irrigation, while also protecting the environment and consumers, and avoiding the ongoing concerns posed by water scarcity.

Because of changing weather conditions, global warming and other factors, water scarcity is a growing concern, particularly affected by unpredictable weather patterns and severe droughts. Further, one third of land in the EU is affected by water stress all year round, meaning that demand outpaces supply.

The commission estimates that water reuse in the EU today is far below its potential, despite being more cost-efficient and causing less environmental impact than extracting and transporting fresh water. By maximising the efficiency of water reuse in certain sectors, the EU could begin to address this problem.

What measures have been proposed?

The measures will establish minimum requirements for treated wastewater from urban treatment plants, covering microbiological elements and establishing monitoring frameworks to guarantee that the water used for agricultural irrigation is safe for this purpose.

In addition, the commission aims to provide better access to information for the pubic in Europe, to understand how this water is being reused and reassuring them of the safety of non-potable wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation.

How will the proposal impact the EU water sector?

European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, hailed the new commission proposal as a vital effort to reduce the environmental consequences caused by the water industry in Europe. The reuse of non-potable water also contributes to the EU’s ambition to increase recycling of all resources as part of its circular economy ambitions.

Vella said: “This proposal will create only winners – our farmers will have access to a sustainable supply for irrigation water, our consumers will know the products they eat are safe, and our businesses will see new opportunities. The biggest winner of them all will be our environment as the proposal contributes to better management of our most precious resource – water.”

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