Reusing water for agriculture and in horticulture frees up fresh, unused water for drinking – a bonus for regions that will be hardest hit by climate change


Water is a precious resource. Where the pressure on the resource is too strong, it is necessary to reuse what we have. We treat the water that comes from our drains, sinks and toilets to remove pollutants and protect the environment. With additional appropriate treatment, we can reach a quality allowing us to reuse this treated waste water. It is one way to increase the available water resources, mitigating water scarcity.

Addressing water scarcity through the reuse of treated waste water in safe and cost-effective conditions is also a major step to maintaining water resources for all. The EU can support water reuse projects and raise the image of reclaimed water towards the end users by ensuring its quality and safety. Our treatment methods ensure that water that goes back into the water cycle is safe and healthy.

In certain regions, water reuse is vital. By reusing water in industry, horticulture, agriculture, sport and leisure, we are freeing up fresh drinking water stocks.

Reuse of treated waste water can have significant environmental, social and economic benefits. Reusing waste water can be beneficial in farming, to give one example, as by reusing water, farmers can be assured of a continuous supply, reducing the risk of crop failure and catastrophic income losses.

Other sectors, such as the food industry, tourism and recreational industries would also benefit. Increasing water reuse would increase the number of jobs in these and the water sectors.

What is the role of the EurEau Joint Working Group on Water Reuse?

The European Commission is committed to developing a number of actions to promote water reuse at EU level in the Circular Economy Package (CEP). These actions aim at overcoming the main barriers to water reuse in a cost-effective and safe way for both human health and the environment.

The appropriate use of treated waste water depends upon its quality and, therefore, the treatment it undergoes. To ensure safe water reuse, it is important to develop the regulatory framework that applies the appropriate minimum water quality requirements according to the specific use.

It is also of utmost importance to ensure the adequate and reliable operation of treatment and distribution systems. To do this, we need robust and comprehensive EU legislation to create the environment in which water operators can develop and implement solutions to produce water for reuse.

We engage through the Joint Working Group (JWG) with European institutions to help them develop the appropriate legislative proposals to satisfy the needs of the water service and to ensure the appropriate quality requirements to make reuse safe for health and the environment. We also raise awareness among policy makers as to why it is important to reuse water and assure customers that water reuse is perfectly safe.

In 2016, with the input of the JWG, the Commission published a guidance document on how to better integrate reuse, water planning and management into the existing regulatory framework.

We expect legislation on minimum requirements for water reuse in irrigation and aquifer recharge, and a review of the best available techniques reference documents for relevant industrial sectors. The Commission will support research and innovation in the water reuse sector and invest more money in this.

EurEau’s members are fully committed to the continuous supply of clean water and the safe return of treated waste water into the water cycle. We are already developing actions to make drinking water and waste water services more resource efficient. Other sectors, such as the food industry, tourism and sport and leisure, also benefit.

We need robust and comprehensive legislation from the EU to enable the CEP to be realised by establishing EU-wide, common, minimum quality standards for reuse. We – the water operators – work with the European Commission to bring legislation that is cost-efficient and safe for people’s health and the environment.

Roberto Mazzini, Chair of the EurEau Joint Working Group on Water Reuse

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