Skip to main content
EU Science Hub
News article28 May 2018

Commission proposes new Regulation on using reclaimed water for irrigation

© Adobe Stock, by Federico Rostagno

A Commission proposal for a new Regulation on the use of treated water for irrigation has been adopted today.

The proposal aims to help alleviate water scarcity and promote sustainable irrigation across the EU. This is a particularly pressing issue given water scarcity and droughts resulting from climate change, and the increasing demands on water supply.

The proposed minimum quality and monitoring requirements are based on the JRC Science for Policy Report - Minimum quality requirements for water reuse in agricultural irrigation and aquifer recharge.

The proposed Regulation also introduces key risk management tasks to identify other risks that should be addressed to ensure the safety of water reuse, and new transparency rules so that consumers can get easy access to water reuse practices in their Member States.

Essentially, the proposal will offer farmers an alternative supply of water for irrigation. It is also expected to boost research, innovation and investment in water reuse, thereby creating new employment opportunities.

According to the impact assessment that accompanies the proposal (based largely on a forthcoming JRC report on the matter*, annual water reuse potential could increase 6-fold by 2025 (to around 6.6 billion m3). An investment of less than €700 million would allow the reclaimed water to be treated at a total cost of less than €0.50 per cubic metre. More than 50% of the water from wastewater treatment plants could theoretically be used for irrigation, resulting in a 5% reduction in direct abstraction from water bodies and groundwater, which would considerably reduce overall water stress.

The EU-level minimum requirements proposed offer clarity and assurance that water reuse practices are safe, and hence that farmers are in compliance with existing legislation on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

The proposal includes a review clause so that the minimum requirements will be updated with the latest scientific knowledge.

Further information

* Pistocchi, A., Aloe, A., Dorati, C., Alcalde Sanz, L., Bouraoui, F., Gawlik, B., Grizzetti, B., Pastori, M., Vigiak, O., The potential of water reuse for agricultural irrigation in the EU. A Hydro-Economic Analysis, The potential of water reuse for agricultural irrigation in the EU. A Hydro-Economic Analysis, EUR 28980 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2018, ISBN 978-92-79-77210-8, doi:10.2760/263713, JRC109870 (in press)


Publication date
28 May 2018