Urban wastewater treatment: Updating EU rules

Briefing 28-02-2023

Under the European Green Deal, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a recast of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive in October 2022. Dating back to 1991, and instrumental to the achievement of European Union water policy objectives, the directive needs to be updated and adapted to new challenges and realities. The recast proposal would introduce new obligations to better control pollution due to rainwater, impose stricter standards for nutrient removal and require advanced treatment for the removal of micro-pollutants. To cover treatment costs, a system of extended producer responsibility (EPR) targeting pharmaceuticals and cosmetics would be set up. To align the directive with the Green Deal's ambitions, an energy neutrality obligation would be introduced for wastewater treatment plants. Requirements on water reuse and sludge management would be clarified to enhance circularity. Health parameters would be monitored in wastewater to support public health action. While the deadline for submitting feedback on the proposal still lies ahead, initial stakeholder reactions already reveal diverging views on the proposed EPR scheme. The co-legislators have started work on the proposal. Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, responsible for the file, plans to consider its rapporteur's draft report at the end of April 2023. The Council intends to hold a policy debate on 16 March 2023. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages in the legislative procedure.