6 June 2019

Reflections on the future of water reuse in the European Union

The European Commission has proposed a new regulation on minimum requirements for the reuse of treated wastewater in agricultural irrigation.

During EU Green Week, Valentina Bastino, from the DG Environment, explained the motivation behind this law, saying: “Today, one third of the territory of the European Union is affected by water stress…The costs of water shortages in the EU have accumulated to around €100 billion in the period between 1976 and 2006… The EU aims at a six fold increase of water reuse by 2025, compared to the value in 2015.”

Once approved and implemented, the regulation will be a major step toward removing trade barriers for agricultural products that are irrigated with reclaimed water, and an essential contribution towards the circular economy.

A workshop hosted in ICLEI Member Brussels (Belgium) as part of EU Green Week sought to discuss this new regulation with a focus on how stakeholders can work to bridge the gap between the policy, perceptions, and practices on-the-ground.

Highlights from the discussion included engagement around concerns about who will be tasked with assuming responsibility for risk assessment and the application of risk management plans. As with any regulatory change, financial implications of producing and using reclaimed water were also discussed. A fair distribution of the economic burden of this change will be crucial towards mainstreaming water reuse. Looking forward, concerns around emerging contaminants in wastewater – in particular pharmaceutical residuals, antibiotics and micro-plastics – will remain a critical issue for which future policy needs to find an effective response.

A higher uptake of water reuse can only be achieved by better informing stakeholders and the public about the mounting impacts of water scarcity and how we can all contribute to mitigating these impacts.

The stakeholder workshop was organized by ICLEI Europe as part of the INCOVER project. The project develops innovative technologies for removing resources from wastewater and reclaiming the water itself, thereby bolstering a circular economy.

More information on water reuse including the new European Commission regulation can be found here. To read more about the stakeholder workshop, please click here, or contact