Minimum requirements for water reuse
Regulation (EU) 2020/741 on minimum requirements for water reuse
It sets out harmonised parameters to guarantee the safety of water reuse in agricultural irrigation, with the aim of encouraging this practice and helping to address droughts and water stress.
It also aims to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 6 on the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production.
The regulation sets out minimum requirements for water quality and monitoring and rules on risk management, for the safe use of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation in the context of integrated water management.
It builds on 2 European Commission communications:
the 2012 Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources (see summary); and
the 2015 EU action plan for the Circular Economy which committed to a series of actions to promote the use of treated waste water and to a legal proposal setting out minimum requirements for water reuse.
The regulation applies whenever treated urban waste water is reused, according to Article 12(1) of Directive 91/271/EEC on urban waste water, for agricultural irrigation (see summary).
An EU country can decide that it is not appropriate to reuse water for agricultural irrigation in one or more of its river basin districts or parts thereof, on the basis of specific criteria:
the geographic and climatic conditions of the district or parts thereof;
the pressures on and the status of other water resources;
the pressures on and the status of the surface water bodies in which treated urban waste water is discharged;
the environmental and resource costs of reclaimed water and of other water resources.
Such decision must be duly justified and regularly reviewed to take into account changing circumstances, such as climate change projections and national climate change adaptation strategies, as well as the river basins management plans drawn up in accordance with the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC — see summary).
The regulation allows for time-limited exemptions from the rules for research or pilot projects, subject to certain conditions.
Reclaimed water quality
The reclamation facility operator must ensure that reclaimed water intended for agricultural irrigation complies with:
the minimum requirements for water quality set out in the annex 1 of the regulation — covering microbiological elements (such as levels of E. coli bacteria) and monitoring requirements for routine and validation monitoring;
any additional conditions concerning water quality set by the competent authority in the relevant permit issued.
The relevant national authority must ensure that a water reuse risk management plan to produce, supply and use reclaimed water is drawn up.
The water reuse risk management plan can be drafted by the reclamation facility operator, other parties in the water reuse project or the end users, as appropriate, and it must identify the risk management responsibilities of all parties in the water reuse project.
It must, in particular, set out any additional water quality requirements, identify appropriate preventive and/or corrective measures and any additional barriers or measures to ensure the safety of the system.
The production and supply of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation requires a permit.
Parties concerned must submit an application to the relevant national authority.
The permits sets out the obligations for the reclamation facility operator, and, where relevant, of other parties involved in the water reuse system, which are based on the risk management plan. They must specify a number of elements including:
the reclaimed water quality class or classes and the agricultural use for which the reclaimed water is permitted, the place of use, the reclamation facilities and the estimated yearly volume of the reclaimed water to be produced;
conditions in relation to the minimum requirements for water quality and monitoring;
conditions in relation to additional requirements for the reclamation facility operator, set out in the water reuse risk management plan;
any other conditions necessary to eliminate any unacceptable risks to the environment and to human and animal health so that any risks are of an acceptable level;
the validity period of the permit;
the point of compliance.
Permits must be regularly reviewed and updated where necessary, and at least in the case of significant changes in the treatment processes or in the site conditions.
The competent national authority must check compliance with the conditions set out in the permit. These can be carried out by:
monitoring data obtained, in particular pursuant to this regulation;
any other adequate means.
The regulation also sets out the measures to be taken in case of non-compliance.
The competent national authority must also regularly check compliance with risk management plans.
Transparency and information sharing
National contact points must be established to facilitate cross-border coordination where necessary.
To ensure transparency, the regulation also sets out rules on:
information to be provided to the public;
information on the monitoring of implementation.
The Commission will carry out an evaluation of the regulation by 26 June 2028.
Application & Background
It applies from 26 June 2023.
For more information, see:
Water reuse (European Commission).
Regulation (EU) 2020/741 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 2020 on minimum requirements for water reuse (OJ L 177, 5.6.2020, pp. 32-55)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Closing the loop — An EU action plan for the Circular Economy (COM(2015) 614 final, 2.12.2015)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources (COM(2012) 673 final, 14.11.2012)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council — Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union (COM(2007) 414 final, 18.7.2007)
Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs (OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, pp. 1-54). Text republished in corrigendum (OJ L 226, 25.6.2004, pp. 3-21)
Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, pp. 1-73)
See consolidated version.
Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption (OJ L 330, 5.12.1998, pp. 32-54)
See consolidated version.
Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban waste-water treatment (OJ L 135, 30.5.1991, pp. 40-52)