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The European Parliament adopts provisional agreement on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

Aqua Publica Europea welcomes the adoption of the provisional deal on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) by the European Parliament yesterday. While some requirements remain challenging for water operators, the deal strikes a fine balance between environmental protection and technical feasibility, while introducing innovative provisions for a more equitable distribution of the costs that achieving new objectives will involve.

EP plenary

On Wednesday, 10 April, the European Parliament has given its green light to the provisional agreement on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) reached with the Council in January. This revision aims to make the EU legislation on the treatment of urban wastewater in line with the latest scientific knowledge and the objectives of the Zero Pollution Action Plan.

The deal aims, among others, to make the wastewater sector energy neutral at national level, treat micropollutants in wastewater, better manage storm water overflow through integrated urban wastewater management plans, and enlarge the scope of the current Directive to cover all agglomerations above 1,000 inhabitants.

Aqua Publica Europea particularly welcomes the introduction of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which will make producers of human pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products (jointly responsible for 92% of the toxic load in wastewaters) cover at least 80% of the costs of quaternary treatment necessary to remove micropollutants.

We also welcome flexibility provisions on energy neutrality related to the production of off-site renewable energy and the purchase of non-fossil energy from external sources under certain conditions. Whilst the agreed energy neutrality target remains challenging for some operators, it is a clear improvement from the European Commission’s original proposal.

Before becoming EU law, the deal will need to go through the European Parliament again after the EU elections (corrigendum procedure) and be approved by Member States in the Council. It will then be published in the EU Official Journal and come into force 20 days later. Member States will have 30 months to transpose the recast Directive into their national legislation.

You can find a more detailed analysis of Aqua Publica Europea’s position on the provisional agreement here.

“We welcome the introduction of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for quaternary treatment in the revised Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, which will require some industries to contribute to the treatment costs of the pollution caused by their products. This a crucial and much-awaited change in the water sector, as it both incentivises environmentally-friendly innovation and contributes to address water affordability issues through a fairer redistribution of depollution costs. We now call for a similar scheme to be applied to drinking water where water users still pay disproportionately for the removal costs of pollutants coming from certain economic sectors.”Milo Fiasconaro, Executive Director of Aqua Publica Europea

Link to the text approved by the European Parliament:

Translations are available in all official EU languages here (next to 268-268):…

Press release from the European Parliament:…