Water reuse regulation for Europe

The European Parliament has adopted the new Water Reuse Regulation as a means of combating increased water scarcity in EU countries.

The adoption allowed publication of the final regulation in the Official Journal of the EU. Regulation 2020/741 was published on 5 June and applies from 26 June 2023.

The regulation defines minimum requirements for reclaimed water for the first time at an EU-wide level. It covers urban wastewater treated in a reclamation plant for safe agricultural use, protecting people and the environment.

The aim of the rule is to ensure that treated wastewater is more widely used to limit abstraction from surface and groundwaters. Falls in groundwater levels, mainly due to agricultural irrigation but also industrial and urban development, have been identified as one of the major threats to the EU’s water environment.

Water reuse is currently only undertaken in a few member states and the EU considers the practice is far below its potential. The hope is that if it is adopted more widely it will ensure a more predictable supply for farmers and help them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts.

Lead MEP Simona Bonafè said that the regulation “marks another important milestone towards the transition to a circular economy for water resources. In this way, step by step, we are bringing concrete results for the environment”.

She added: “We could potentially reuse 6.6 billion cubic metres of water by 2025, compared to the current 1.1 billion cubic metres per year. That would require an investment of less than €700 million and would enable us to reuse more than half of the current volume of water coming from EU wastewater treatment plants theoretically available for irrigation, avoiding more than 5% of direct extraction from water bodies and groundwater.”