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Brussels proposes guidelines for wastewater reuse for irrigation

According to the new proposal treated wastewater can be used for irrigation. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

New rules to safely start using reclaimed water in agriculture. European Commissioner Karmenu Vella of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries presented a proposal for regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse on the 28th of May. The objective is to stimulate and facilitate water reuse in the EU.

Thanks to the new proposal Europe should be able to alleviate water scarcity and protect the environment and consumers. Vella: "This proposal will create only winners. Farmers will have access to a sustainable supply for irrigation water, consumers will know the products they eat are safe and businesses will see new opportunities. The biggest winner of them all will be our environment as the proposal contributes to better management of our most precious resource – water."

Water quality
According to the new proposal water for irrigation does not have to be of drinking water quality. It proposes minimum requirements for the reuse of treated waste water from urban waste water treatment plants. The reclaimed water has to be free from pathogens like the E. coli bacteria and sets monitoring requirements for routine and validation monitoring.

Source: Water Reuse Regulation Annex.

The proposal distinguishes four quality classes of reclaimed water for different purposes. It also gives an indication of the quality requirements and what water treatment technology can be used to achieve this quality class.

 

Source: Water Reuse Regulation Annex.

The ‘A’ water quality is the best and can be used in all food crops. Even if the edible part is in direct contact with reclaimed water. B and C can be used for fruit trees and for the production of food for animals. The lowest quality water ‘D’ can only be used for non-food purposes.

Circular economy
The Regulation proposed by the Commission aims to alleviating water scarcity across the EU, in the context of adapting to climate change. It will ensure that treated waste water intended for agricultural irrigation is safe, protecting citizens and the environment. The proposal is part of the Commission's 2018 Work Programme, following up on the Circular Economy Action Plan, and completes the existing EU legal framework on water and foodstuffs.

Reduce pressure on water resources
The European federation of national water services EurEau welcomes the approach for the safe reuse of treated waste water to allow more options for irrigation in water-scarce regions. “The new regulation will, for the first time, set European standards for using water for irrigation. By reusing water, we will reduce the pressure on water resources and ensure the safe irrigation of crops”, states Oliver Loebel, Secretary General of EurEau. “To make this possible, the proposal must guarantee the safety of the water used for irrigation while ensuring that treating water remains economically viable.”