Consultation Session: Quality of Re-used Water in the EU

20 January 2017

On Friday, January 20, 2017 a consultation session took place at MEUSAC on the ‘Quality of re-used water in the EU’, mainly in agriculture irrigation and aquifer recharge for reclaimed water use.

Mr Manuel Sapiano, from the Energy and Water Agency within the Office of the Prime Minister, said that one of the Council conclusions during the Slovak Presidency was that water re-use can be an important instrument to address water scarcity and to adapt to climate change as part of integrated water management.

Re-use of water has been mentioned in a number of documents and the European Commission is working on this first directive proposal, which should be presented at the start of third quarter of this year, including a mention in the Circular Economy Package.

One of the compounds of emerging concern across the EU includes the presence of glyphosate in reclaimed water.

Glyphosate use in Malta will be banned in April this year, it was announced recently. Malta is the only country in the EU that voted against its use after the World Health Organisation had deemed it ‘carcinogenic’.

As part of the ongoing public consultation on the reuse of water, the Commission is currently requesting feedback on the potential benefits of water re use in agriculture irrigation and on what are the specific objectives that should be addressed for the EU’s maximum quality requirements for water re-use, among others.

Hydrologist Marco Cremona said that from a local perspective, Malta invested close to 25 million euro in water treatment plants to polish waste water for aquifer and agricultural use.

He asked whether the reuse of quality water would have to wait for this directive to be introduced.

Mr Sapiano replied that from a government perspective we have been involved in following the drafting of such documents and when one looks at the parameters being proposed, when considering the Malta project is a high end polishing process, it attains the requirements being proposed. He said that one needs to keep in mind that in other Member States, traditional waste water plants are being looked at whereas Malta’s is a very high end plant.

Water Treatment Engineer and Hydrologist Marco Cremona said that the process may be non-economically viable if the directive is far too stringent and that monitoring requirements should therefore be reasonable and affordable.

This procedure, he said, is very important for Malta and he feels Europe has been lagging in this sector when one considers that such standards have been developed in California, Texas and other states and countries as Singapore. a long time ago to deal with its problems of water drought. He said that California for example is so advanced that it is installing municipal water treatment plants that are producing potable water for the municipal water supply, and augmenting conventional (and increasingly scarce) drinking water sources.

Ing. Cremona continued “that it is important for us to give our contribution – Malta has the biggest water scarcity issues in the continent – so that Europe gets the point that it’s important for Malta and Europe as a whole, despite the fact that Europe is rather late in tackling this issue”.

Ing. Cremona asked whether the EU will provide funds to convince the public that the water is safe and for demo plants to be developed to which Mr Sapiano replied in the affirmative.

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