The Commission has announced a provisional political agreement on the revised Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, proposed by the Commission, which the European Parliament and Council have agreed upon. This update will enhance the safeguarding of human health and the environment by reducing harmful urban wastewater discharges, leading to cleaner European water bodies.
The revised directive expands its scope to include smaller communities with at least 1,000 residents and imposes new standards for removing nutrients and micropollutants from urban wastewater. It also introduces the ‘polluter pays’ principle, requiring industries responsible for pollution to bear part of the cost, aiming to relieve the financial burden on public budgets and water tariffs.
Furthermore, the directive will promote climate and energy neutrality in the wastewater sector and improve stormwater management, particularly in light of the increasing frequency of heavy rainfall due to climate change. It also aligns with the revised Drinking Water Directive, ensuring sanitation access for two million of the EU’s most vulnerable.
The directive mandates stricter controls on pollutants, such as microplastics, PFAS, and toxins from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, in urban wastewater. Industries contributing most to pollution, specifically pharmaceutical and cosmetic sectors, will cover a significant portion of the cost for removing these pollutants.
Moreover, urban wastewaters will undergo regular monitoring for health-related parameters, including antimicrobial resistance and potential pandemic-related pathogens like SARS-CoV. Member States are required to develop integrated management plans for stormwaters, with an emphasis on nature-based solutions, especially in larger cities or where stormwaters pose a risk.
This directive also supports the circular economy by enhancing the quality of treated wastewater and sludge for agricultural reuse, ensuring resource preservation.
The next steps involve the formal adoption of the directive by the European Parliament and Council, followed by its implementation 20 days post-publication in the EU’s Official Journal. Member States are expected to start executing the directive’s requirements and submit their first national implementation programs by 2026.