#05 | New Criteria for Wastewater Reuse

By Eva Mena Gil  (EMUASA)  

The reuse of treated wastewater has been identified as a very relevant alternative water source. However, both at European and Spanish level, water reuse is still very incipient. Yet, there are territories such as Región de Murcia, where reused water has acquired a strategic importance for agriculture.

The new REGULATION (UE) 2020/741 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNSIL of 25 May 2020 on minimum requirements for water reuse defines the minimal requirements at European level for the first time for the use of reclaimed water for agricultural purposes, protecting people and the environment.

It also establishes harmonized parameters to ensure safety on water reuse in agricultural irrigation, with the aim of promoting this practice and helping to cope with droughts and water stress.

Furthermore, it aims to contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 6 about water availability and its sustainable management and sanitation for all, and Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production.

When will the new regulation be in force? It takes effect from June 26, 2023

For agricultural purposes it refers to irrigation of the following crops:  

  • Food crops that are consumed raw, i.e. those intended for human consumption in a raw or unprocessed state,
  • Food crops that are consumed processed, i.e. those intended for human consumption after a treatment process (i.e. cooking or subsequent industrial treatment),
  • Non-food crops, e. those that are not intended for human consumption (e.g. pastures and fodder, fibers, ornamental crops, seed crops, energy crops and grass).
  • Without prejudice to other rules of Union Law applicable in the fields of environment and health, Member States may use reclaimed water for additional uses such as: water reuse in industry; environmental and recreational purposes.

The regulation introduces minimum quality standards, as well as risk management, which had not previously been considered.  

For the success of this regulation, the most important thing is to overcome cultural and social reticence for the complete acceptance of the use of regenerated waters, as well as to carry out safety plans for the use of reused waters, convincing both the producers of reused/reclaimed water and users.