Legislative initiatives relating to water reuse
In the absence of regulations regarding the reuse of water, the EU has adopted regulatory initiatives to protect the environment and the public health and to regulate the reuse of water.
In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a proposal for regulation setting EU-wide minimum requirements to facilitate water reuse for agriculture irrigation. This proposal aimed to ensure that treated waste water intended for agricultural irrigation is safe, protecting citizens and the environment.The proposal was 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.
In Europe, water is a scarce resource and there is a lot of pressure on our water reserves, threatening some priority uses like drinking water supply. Furthermore, climate change will put more and more pressure on our precious water resources and alternative water sources will have to be increasingly taken into consideration. Water reuse could be considered as a solution to water scarcity. Irrigation may be practiced with ‘de facto’ water reuse and without specific control. To limit this situation, promote safer practices and ensure the protection of human and the environment, the legislative proposal sets minimum requirements for water reuse in irrigation. Hence, the proposed regulation defines water quality according to target crops and irrigation systems together with a risk management plan for the water reuse practice.
Besides the harmonised minimum requirements, the new proposed legislation also sets out harmonised minimum monitoring requirement such as risk management provisions to assess and address potential additional health risks and possible environmental risk and a permitting procedure and provisions on transparency, whereby key information about any water reuse project would be made publicly available.
The European Parliament adopted its position on the proposal on 12 February 2019. The Council agreed its position on 26 June 2019. Negotiations with the European Parliament started on 10 October 2019 and ended in a provisional agreement on 2 December 2019. This paves the way for the formal adoption of the new rules, which will happen in 2020.
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