New EU regulations on minimum water reuse requirements: a step towards the circular economy in the area of water resources

The new Regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse seeks to facilitate the use of reclaimed water in such a way as to ensure its safety in terms of environmental protection, and human and animal health. The Regulation sets out obligations and criteria for water reclamation plant operators, whilst also making it compulsory for Member States to establish a penalty system for failure to comply with these obligations. The penalties applied should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

Efficient water reuse contributes to the sustainability and protection of water resources. It constitutes an alternative source of water with a lower environmental impact than water transfers or desalination. Water reuse is an eminently circular practice. In agriculture, it enables the recovery of the nutrients in treated urban wastewater, thereby returning nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to natural biochemical cycles. This reduces the need for the complementary application of inorganic fertilisers.

Water resources are currently under stress, a situation which is becoming worse due to climate change. Given a scenario in which half of European river basins could suffer from water scarcity by 2030, the EU has passed a Regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse. The aim is to facilitate the use of reclaimed water in such a way as to ensure its safety in terms of environmental protection, and human and animal health.

This Regulation will undoubtedly promote the circular economy and achievement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly SDG 6, which seeks to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. It will also facilitate a substantial increase in safe water reclamation and reuse worldwide, thus contributing to the achievement of SDG 12 on responsible production and consumption.

Christian Morron Lingl

Lawyer at Terraqui, law firm specialising in environmental law

Published in: FuturENVIRO Nº 69 April-May 2020