Joint civil society priorities for the trialogue negotiations on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

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16 Jan

EAA signed this NGO Joint Statement concerning the pending revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

We, the undersigned organisations call upon all EU Member States, Members of the European
Parliament and the European Commission, to adopt a strong Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive
(UWWTD) that is fit for purpose to address current and emerging threats to ecosystems and human
health for the coming decades.
Our society and nature pay a heavy price with regards to water pollution. Yet, the discharge of
untreated and/or inadequately treated wastewater remains a main reason for the failure of good water
status. As a footprint of society and our consumption and production patterns, urban wastewater
contains a complex mix of domestic discharges, industrial effluents, and road runoff that needs proper
treatment to achieve good water quality in the EU.
While preventing pollution at the source should always be the priority, urban wastewater treatment
remains our last filter of protection before discharging into the receiving environment. Upholding an
ambitious update of the Directive can address both of these objectives.
Climate change is already resulting in extended heatwaves and floods, with a high toll on human
health but also at a large cost for the public budget. Integrated urban wastewater management, with
an emphasis on prevention via blue-green solutions, is essential to cities’ climate change adaptation
and can help to reduce pollution carried by wastewater spills.
Now is the chance to update the EU’s already 30-year-old wastewater rules and make them respond
to the challenges of today, not least in tackling pollutants of emerging concern. The Commission has
proposed an ambitious overhaul of the rules, but we are concerned about certain changes proposed
by the Parliament and – in particular - the Council that would significantly weaken the Commission’s
We therefore call upon national governments, Members of the European Parliament and the European
Commission to safeguard the following key elements in the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment
Directive in the trialogue negotiations.

  • No more derogation after 2027 on existing wastewater treatment requirements.
    Secondary treatment (removal of organic matter) has been a central requirement of the
    Directive since 1991 and should have already been fulfilled in all +2000 p.e. agglomeration
    by 2005 at the latest. Decentralised treatment will still be allowed where the environmental
    gain or costs do not warrant the building of a collection systems.
  • Coherent rules across the EU without exemptions for selected Member States or regions.
  • Maintained ambition for micropollutant removal by retaining 100,000 p.e. as the definition
    for large plants and as the cut-off threshold for mandatory tertiary and quaternary treatment
  • Timely introduction of publicly available integrated urban wastewater management plans
    with clear targets to climate-proof cities and reduce pollution from urban wastewaters.
  • No undermining of the Water Framework Directive objectives. The 2019 fitness check
    concluded the Water Framework Directive is fit for purpose and its obligations have been
    clarified in court rulings.
  • An EPR scheme that covers all costs related to micropollutant removal.
  • An energy neutrality target that is truly aiming for energy neutrality, with emphasis on energy
    saving first in order to reduce energy consumption and to protect the public budget from volatile energy prices.
  • Ensure that circularity requirements do not compromise the EU Zero Pollution ambition by
    ensuring strict pollution thresholds for wastewater and sludge reuse, in particular in
  • Secure a comprehensive framework to prevent biomedia leakages through preventive
    measures as well as regular monitoring of the use of this technology in WWTPs.

Delaying action, watering down the ambition or introducing loopholes to the recast law will only make
it more difficult and more costly to deal with the consequences. Strong and effective measures to curb
wastewater pollution is essential to achieve cleaner rivers, lakes, groundwaters and seas.

Please find HERE the Joint Statement. 
Sara Johansson,
European Environmental Bureau 
Lucille Labayle, Surfrider Foundation Europe
EU-level organisations

The European Environmental Bureau
Surfrider Foundation Europe
Wetlands International Europe
The European Anglers Alliance
Healthcare Without Harm
European Network of Outdoor Sports
Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
European Cave Protection Commission
WECF International (Women Engage for a Common Future)
National organisations:

Ecologistas en Acción
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)
Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND) Friends of the Earth Germany
New Water Culture Foundation

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