A regulation, approved by the Parliament, will help for preventing big water shortages


Photo: EPSimona Bonafè.

At its plenary session on Wednesday, MEPs adopted without a vote the Water Reuse Regulation as to prevent water shortages that is increasingly big problem for many EU states and regions. 

It defines minimum requirements at European level for the first time for urban wastewater that has been treated in a reclamation plant to be used to irrigate food crops, processed food crops and non-food crops in a safe way, protecting people and the environment.

The regulation aims to ensure that treated wastewater is more broadly reused in order to limit use from water bodies and groundwater. The fall in groundwater levels, due in particular to agricultural irrigation, but also industrial use and urban development, is one of the main threats to the EU water environment. More water reuse is expected to alleviate the stress on freshwater supply.

At least 11% of the European population and 17% of its territory have been affected by water scarcity, according to the Commission. During summer, over half of the population in the Mediterranean region is affected by water stress.

Today marks another important milestone towards the transition to a circular economy for water resources, said lead MEP Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT) adding that potentially can be reused 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 €700m 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, she pointed out.

The regulation will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU and shall apply three years after entry into force.

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