The European Parliament has approved the Water Reuse Regulation to prevent water shortages across the EU, intended to ensure that treated wastewater is reused more broadly to limit the use from groundwater and water bodies.
Minimum requirements at European level have now been defined for the first time for reclaimed water – wastewater from urban areas that has been treated in a reclamation plant – to be used in agriculture in a safe way, a way that protects both people and the environment.
Groundwater levels have seen a drop, in large part because of agricultural irrigation, but also because of urban development and industrial use… and it is this drop that is one of the biggest threats to the water environment in the EU.
A recent report on the European Water Scarcity and Droughts Policy, carried out by the European Commission, found that water scarcity is an increasingly big problem for many EU member states, with at least 17 per cent of the European territory affected by water scarcity.
Lead MEP Simona Bonafe commented on the new regulation approval, saying: “We could potentially reuse 6.6 billion cubic metres of water by 2025, compared to the current 1.1 billion cubic metres per year.
“That would require an investment of less than EUR 700 million and would enable us to reuse more than half of the current volume of water coming from EU wastewater treatment plants theoretically available for irrigation, avoiding more than five per cent of direct extraction from water bodies and groundwater.”
We may have left the EU but that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t start doing all they can now to save water and protect this vital resource for future generations.
There are all sorts of alternative water resources you could consider if you are keen to start reducing your impact on the planet and if you’re worried about the growing threat of water stress and scarcity.
Rainwater harvesting is a route you could take, for example, which involves collecting and storing the rainwater that falls on the roof of buildings. This can then be filtered and reused instead of mains water for applications like laundry and process water, toilet flushing and vehicle washing.
Reclaimed water, meanwhile, is that which is discharged from businesses and their operations. It’s treated at a wastewater facility before being reused for industrial processes and irrigation.
The effects of water scarcity are now being felt on every continent, with data from the UN showing that usage has been growing around the world at more than twice the rate of the population increase in the last century. Globally, there are increasing numbers of places that are now reaching the limit at which water services can be delivered in a sustainable way.