Evaluation of EU urban waste water treatment legislation finds that it is fit for purpose but its effectiveness could be improved

An evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive concludes that it is overall fit for purpose although there is room to enhance its positive effects and to step up its implementation in a number of Member States. The evaluation shows that legislation, which is almost 30 years old, has been successful in increasing waste water collection and treatment throughout the EU but an overhaul is needed to address existing and emerging pollution, adapt to societal issues derived from climate change, and respond to technological developments. Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries: “The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is generally strong EU legislation that has led to visible improvements to our water bodies. Now it is time to deal with the remaining pollution that is not yet sufficiently addressed by this Directive. As also identified in the recent Water Fitness Check, we need to find ways to deal with contaminants of emerging concern such aspharmaceuticals and microplastics that reach our water bodies – often through disposal by households – but also through urban runoff or industrial emissions.” The Evaluation shows that, although the Directive is expensive to implement, the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. Member States struggling with its implementation have received technical support and substantial EU funding to reach compliance, through the delivery of infrastructure, whilst avoiding water affordability issues. Additionally, the fitness check identifies that the Directive – given that it came into force in 1991 – does not adequately deal with emerging concerns such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics, that often reach water bodies through the waste water system. More information is available in a news item.