EU’s plan for better quality water

European Parliament approves wastewater rules

Image of a wastewater treatment plant. Credit: Tim Sheerman-Chase/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

The EU has announced ambitious targets in an effort to improve water quality across Spain and Europe.

On Wednesday, April 10, the European Parliament endorsed significant changes to urban wastewater treatment guidelines, aiming to improve environmental and public health protections.

Improved water treatment

The Parliament recently approved updates to increase the reach of an existing law to include more people. Under the new rules, by 2035, communities with at least 1,000 people must treat their wastewater more thoroughly to remove organic waste.

These changes, supported by a vote of 481 to 79 with 26 abstentions, still need final approval from the Council.

Looking further ahead, by 2039, EU countries must introduce an even higher level of wastewater treatment in larger facilities serving 150,000 people or more.

This advanced treatment will focus on removing harmful substances like nitrogen and phosphorus. By 2045, smaller facilities that serve at least 10,000 people will also need to adopt the most advanced purification processes to remove a variety of tiny pollutants.

The Parliament’s vote emphasises the need to enhance wastewater treatment to protect the environment and public health.

Renewable energy and monitoring

The legislation also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the wastewater treatment sector. Targets have been set to progressively increase the use of renewable energy—20 per cent by 2030, 40 per cent by 2035, 70 per cent by 2040, and 100 per cent by 2045.

Moreover, improved monitoring of public health threats, including viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and contaminants such as microplastics and ‘forever chemicals,’ will be implemented.

Financial accountability for industry

Reflecting the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the new rules will impose economic responsibilities on the producers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

These industries are expected to bear at least 80 per cent of the costs for advanced micropollutant removal, with additional national funding to mitigate any potential impacts on the accessibility and affordability of essential products.

With the European Parliament’s backing, these robust measures are poised to transform urban water management, ensuring cleaner environments and healthier communities across the EU.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.