Brussels Approves Plan to Use Treated Wastewater for Irrigation

Brussels has published new guidelines paving the way for the widespread use of treated urban wastewater in agriculture.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 10, 2022 13:16 UTC

The European Commission is step­ping up mea­sures to cope with the severe drought, which is con­cern­ing farm­ers and reduc­ing crop yields across the con­ti­nent.

Reduced vol­umes of avail­able water for irri­ga­tion are sig­nif­i­cantly affect­ing sta­ple crops, includ­ing olives, in coun­tries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Today’s guide­lines can help us… secure the safe cir­cu­la­tion, across the E.U., of food prod­ucts grown with reclaimed water.”- Virginijus Sinkevičius, E.U. Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Oceans

However, the effects of the drought on agri­cul­ture have spread well beyond the con­fines of south­ern Europe. It also has impacted France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

As a result, Brussels has pub­lished new guide­lines paving the way for the wide­spread use of treated urban waste­water in agri­cul­ture.

See Also:Flash Droughts Are Happening More Quickly and Lasting Longer

The guide­lines build on already agreed upon mea­sures that should have come into force soon, such as the water reuse reg­u­la­tion, which sets uni­form min­i­mum water qual­ity require­ments for the safe reuse of treated urban waste­water in agri­cul­tural irri­ga­tion.”

Besides ask­ing mem­ber coun­tries to push water man­age­ment to the top of their agen­das, the guide­lines also set out min­i­mum mon­i­tor­ing require­ments, risk man­age­ment rules to assess pos­si­ble health and envi­ron­men­tal haz­ards and rules for project and fund­ing trans­parency.

The doc­u­ment also includes sug­gested inter­ven­tions for sev­eral crops and val­i­da­tion mon­i­tor­ing pro­to­cols. For exam­ple, the guide­lines rec­om­mend that table olive pro­duc­ers only use advanced drip irri­ga­tion tech­niques.

While being her­alded as part of an ongo­ing European water man­age­ment strat­egy, the new guide­lines are meant to bring relief at a very chal­leng­ing moment.

According to the European Drought Monitor, the continent’s severe” drought con­tin­ues to expand and become worse. The group added that com­pe­ti­tion for water was begin­ning ear­lier than usual, and reduced crop yields are expected.

Freshwater resources are scarce and increas­ingly under pres­sure,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, the E.U.’s envi­ron­ment, fish­eries and oceans com­mis­sioner.

In times of unprece­dented tem­per­a­ture peaks, we need to stop wast­ing water and use this resource more effi­ciently to adapt to the chang­ing cli­mate and ensure the secu­rity and sus­tain­abil­ity of our agri­cul­tural sup­ply,” he added. Today’s guide­lines can help us do just that and secure the safe cir­cu­la­tion, across the E.U., of food prod­ucts grown with reclaimed water.”

During its intro­duc­tion of the guide­lines, the com­mis­sion said uni­form min­i­mum require­ments would boost con­sumer con­fi­dence and ensure the sin­gle marker for agri­cul­tural pro­duce func­tioned prop­erly.

The com­mis­sion added that the use of treated waste­water would con­tribute to the E.U. goal of reduc­ing food sys­tems’ envi­ron­men­tal foot­print and increas­ing the resilience of the continent’s farm­ers.


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