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REPORT | The combined implementation of EU water policy

On 3 March 2020, Aqua Publica Europea, the European Association of Public Water Operators, organised a technical meeting between its Management Board, the European Commission and key water stakeholders, in Brussels, to discuss the concrete application of water policy, addressing in particular the question of the combined implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Read the full report.

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Political momentum is currently high for water following the European Commission’s evaluation of its landmark water Directives, including the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC (UWWTD), published in December 2019.

As a follow-up, on 3 March 2020, Aqua Publica Europea, the European Association of Public Water Operators, organised a technical meeting between its Management Board, the European Commission and key water stakeholders, in Brussels, to discuss the concrete application of water policy, addressing in particular the question of the combined implementation of the two pieces of legislation currently in discussion. 

Aqua Publica’s Vice-President, Mr. Paolo Romano (SMAT, Italy) opened the meeting and Mr. Michel Sponar, Head of Unit for Water Industry at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment gave the participants an overview of the conclusions of the evaluations, highlighting that both Directives have proven their value and necessity over time to protect water resources. Nevertheless, evaluations have also identified issues which have slowed down implementation as well as new challenges to consider going forward. 

Taking into account the complementarity of the WFD and the UWWTD, the presentations of concrete experiences of public water operators members of Aqua Publica Europea allowed participants to review their articulation and to identify the challenges in their combined implementation. 

Based on the case studies, the discussion addressed: the importance of ensuring consistency in the interpretation of the two texts, especially with regard to the regulatory definitions; the question of adequate treatment level requirements, including in light of emerging challenges but also considering local conditions; the opportunity to consider new methodologies and criteria to assess alternatives for waste water treatment systems in a context of high investment needs and a changing climate; the possibility of adding new requirements such as energy efficiency and circular economy promotion whilst preserving efficient environmental protection and affordability.

These themes where addressed from the different perspectives of the members of Aqua Publica Europea, from: Alsace-Moselle (France) sharing insight from the provisions of service in river basins characterised by several tributaries with varying levels of quality converging into one main stream; Badajoz (Spain) in charge of the waste water treatment of small agglomerations in rural areas; Turin (Italy) focused on storm water management in an urban context and Geneva (Switzerland) as Switzerland is deploying quaternary treatment for micropollutants. 

Throughout the discussion, the environmental, social and economic aspects were kept in mind.   

Download the report below.