EU Permits Treated Wastewater Use For Irrigation
The EU has introduced a new piece of legislation for all member states – the Water Reuse Regulation (WRR) – that has made the use of treated wastewater for irrigation accessible, safe and transparent for farmers.
Although some member states already deploy water reuse in this regard, as other countries do around the world as well, just 2.4 per cent of all treated urban wastewater in the EU is currently being reclaimed and reused. Furthermore, there is a large degree of variance among member states in relation to the amount of treated wastewater being reclaimed.
Some nations, for example, reclaim up to 89 per cent of treated wastewater resources, while others reclaim as little as five per cent, or they don’t practise water reuse at all. As such, this represents a huge opportunity to drive efficiency gains in water use and consumption.
As time goes on and the realities of climate change start to make themselves felt increasingly, particularly where water stress and security is concerned, this will become essential for crisis adaptation, as well as ensuring food security.
It will also help the EU operate in line with the Water Action Agenda (set out at the UN 2023 Water Conference), which focuses on providing access to good-quality water and climate change adaptation.
It’s hoped that the new regulation will help drive trust among consumers and farmers alike as the move is made towards a more circular approach to water usage, ensuring that resources are safe while reducing the pressure that water abstraction puts on dwindling resources in the continent and maintaining the ability to grow food.
In addition, the aim is also to help preserve water resources necessary for both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, protecting biodiversity, adapting to climate change and achieving zero pollution.
Virginius Sinkevičius, commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, said: “Water is a precious resource that is becoming more and more scarce. Just as we are increasingly reusing other materials and rare commodities, urban wastewater can be successfully treated with the available technologies.
“That opens many possibilities for farmers who can use such reclaimed water safely for irrigation. With these new standards, consumers and farmers can be confident in the quality and safety of agricultural produce irrigated with reclaimed water.”
Of course, water is essential for crop growth, but its increasing scarcity is one of the biggest challenges that the world faces, not just the EU. Not only does agriculture affect water quantity but it also has an impact on water quality, as well, through water volumes used and the release of polluting substances back into the natural environment.
Given predictions from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that there will be a 15 per cent increase in global demand for agricultural products by the year 2028, regulations such as the WRR will only become more important as time goes on.