The European Commission has reached a provisional agreement on minimum requirements for the reuse of water in the agricultural sector.
The new rules were initially proposed by the Commission in May 2018 with the aim of alleviating water shortages around the EU. They detail a set of standards for minimum water quality for the targeted reuse of urban wastewater in agricultural irrigation; as well as minimum requirements on water quality monitoring, risk management guidelines and standardised procedures to ensure transparency. The minimum water quality requirements are designed to ensure that treated urban wastewater – which is already subject to some treatment parameters under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive – will receive further treatment in order to render it suitable for use in agriculture.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “With this provisional agreement, we are equipping the EU with a powerful tool to tackle some of the challenges posed by climate change. Together with water savings and efficiency measures, the use of reclaimed water in the agriculture sector can play an important part in addressing water stress and drought, while fully guaranteeing the safety of our citizens.”
Only a few EU Member States currently engage in the practice of reusing water; and the new rules are aimed at improving uptake of the practice in order to ensure farmers are able to access increased sources of clean water for use in irrigation. The Commission expects that the implementation of minimum quality requirements under its proposed regulation will provide a guarantee of safety and improve consumers’ confidence in European agrifood products, thereby increasing adoption of wastewater reuse as an agricultural practice.
The Commission’s provisional agreement, which was developed in adherence to the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, will now be passed to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU for formal approval.