The EU has promulgated new reuse standards, but some member states are slow to adopt them
This summer, the European Union (EU) unveiled an ambitious first set of unionwide agricultural water reuse standards to encourage more recycling in member states. While reuse adoption is robust in some states, others resist. How is the new water reuse roadmap likely to affect the EU?
The new agricultural reuse minimum standards now apply to all agricultural water reuse across the EU. Member states can, however, opt out if their water supplies are deemed ample and secure, or they can choose to adopt even tougher national standards.
While legal frameworks for reuse already exist in six EU countries, only 2.4% of EU wastewater is now recycled. Extreme water stress is, however, forcing some regions to take a second look at alternative water sources. The immediate effect of the roadmap is likely to be a rapid growth in the market for agricultural reuse in Spain, Italy, Greece and France, while Germany will likely set heightened standards for emerging contaminants before embracing reuse.
What Are the New EU Water Reuse Standards?
The framework applies to four categories of agricultural products, from nonfood items to food intended for raw consumption. Nonfood crops or crops destined for further processing generally will only require secondary treatment and disinfection, while higher-risk food crops must be grown with class A reclaimed water, which is produced with more intensive treatment, including an extra filtration stage.
Controversy Over Water Reuse Standards
Development of the standards was controversial, and controversy remains. According to some parties, the limits are so low that they’re a danger to public health and confidence in reuse, while others assert that they are so stringent that they discourage reuse due to cost of treatment.
While Germany is proceeding cautiously, more immediate expansion may happen where reuse is already more accepted, such as in Italy and Greece. In the past, strict and complex legalities there tended to limit adoption, but the new framework is expected to clarify matters, which in turn is expected to remove economic and trade barriers to crops irrigated with reclaimed water.
In Spain, the framework clarifications, combined with the pressure of climate change-associated water scarcity and the advantages of decades of Spanish reuse experience, will likely catalyze rapid expansion of reuse in the next five years. The only significant challenge is that a risk management plan will have to be established.
In France, where recycled water comprises less than 1% of total treated wastewater, a new national water management plan adopted in March has set a goal of 10% reuse by 2030. France hopes to meet the goal by simplifying permitting to meet EU roadmap recommendations, which will open up greywater and industrial wastewater to reuse.
Water Reuse for the Future
As we face a future of increased water scarcity as well as increased demand, it makes little sense to discard water after one use when it can be economically treated for safe agricultural reuse. With further treatment, recycled water can even serve as drinking water.
Seven Seas Water Group delivers the advantages of reuse with its capital-optimizing Water-as-a-Service® (WaaS®). With WaaS®, Seven Seas uses specialized contracts to deliver, operate, and maintain water infrastructure with no upfront costs. Clients pay only for the water delivered. Contact Seven Seas to learn about adopting water reuse without drawbacks.
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