EU Introduces Standards for Use of Reclaimed Water for Irrigation

New measures aim to promote the reuse of city wastewater for the irrigation of farmland.

Apr. 24, 2020
By Isabel Putinja

The European Union (EU) is mov­ing for­ward with new mea­sures to pro­mote the use of reclaimed water for agri­cul­tural irri­ga­tion. The aim of the new EU reg­u­la­tion is to improve water avail­abil­ity and qual­ity for the irri­ga­tion of farm­land through the use of treated urban waste­water. The ini­tia­tive addresses the risk of drought-like con­di­tions increas­ing pres­sure on water resources due to new, cli­mate-change fueled weather patterns.

It makes sense to set har­mo­nized min­i­mum stan­dards for reclaimed water qual­ity and for com­pli­ance mon­i­tor­ing so that our farm­ers can use reclaimed water.- Ioan Denes, Romanian min­is­ter of waters and forests

Italy, Spain and Greece have already been using reclaimed water from cities to irri­gate farm­land. Other coun­tries have not yet explored this method to recy­cle and reuse waste­water and only a hand­ful of EU mem­ber states have national stan­dards or leg­is­la­tion on water reuse. 

In the cur­rent con­text of cli­mate change and the threat of water short­ages, using recy­cled water on farms may become increas­ingly nec­es­sary. For these rea­sons, the EU has come up with stan­dards for water qual­ity for agri­cul­tural irrigation.

The newly pro­posed mea­sures include min­i­mum stan­dards for water qual­ity across the EU to ensure that the use of retreated waste­water for the water­ing of crops is safe for the envi­ron­ment as well as human and ani­mal health. 

The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion takes into account the var­ied geog­ra­phy and cli­mate across the EU and the fact that some coun­tries may not even need to use reclaimed water for irrigation.

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On April 7, the Council of the EU adopted a Position of the Council at first read­ing with a view to the adop­tion of a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on min­i­mum require­ments for water reuse.” 

The pro­posed mea­sures were first announced in June 2019 dur­ing the Romanian Presidency of the EU. 

Water is a pre­cious resource. Today is an impor­tant step in putting in place new rules which will enable us to reclaim water in a way which is safe for humans and ani­mals, and good for the envi­ron­ment,” said Ioan Deneș, the Romanian min­is­ter of waters and forests. It makes sense to set har­mo­nized min­i­mum stan­dards for reclaimed water qual­ity and for com­pli­ance mon­i­tor­ing so that our farm­ers can use reclaimed water. Part of this is about learn­ing from the expe­ri­ence of some mem­ber states which have been suc­cess­fully reusing water for decades.” 

The next step in the EU pol­icy-mak­ing process is for the European Parliament to approve the draft leg­is­la­tion before it becomes law.

Heat waves, insuf­fi­cient rain­fall and water short­ages have pre­sented seri­ous chal­lenges to olive grow­ers in recent years and had a neg­a­tive impact on olive oil production.

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