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World Water Day 2017 is aiming at reusing wastewater

Treated wastewater can be safely used in agriculture. Picture: Water News Europe

Why wasting water? That is the main question World Water Day is raising on the 22 of March this year. In 2017 the UN-Water programme concentrates on the connection between water and wastewater. In the quest for sustainable development reusing wastewater is inevitable. In the circular economy wastewater is perceived as a valuable resource.

The World Economic Forum ranks water crises, such as scarcity, floods and pollution, among the main risks for the global economy. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and member of the UN High Level Panel on Water recently wrote in a blog for the World Economic Forum that every drop of water will increasingly have to be used, re-used, and then re-used again. ‘This can only be done if every user is considerate of the needs of other and subsequent users’, states Rutte. The UN Valuing Water Initiative is working a comprehensive and hands-on tool to improve global practices on valuing water. It will be published in the beginning of 2018.

European Legislation
One of the main barriers to a wider reuse of wastewater is the lack of a coherent and comprehensive legislative framework within the European Union. Several Member States developed their own standards, which often differ from one another, creating potential difficulties in trade of agricultural products. Lack of understanding of actual benefits and risks has led to distrust among the general public and over-precautionary approaches. For example the ban on reused water for aquifer recharge. For this reason the European Commission will propose at the beginning of 2017 legislation on minimum requirements for water reuse in irrigation and aquifer recharge. The technical proposal is under development by the Joint Research Centre and will be consulted with the independent Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER).