24 February 2020 | 8 minutes.

Into the great big blue

Oliver Loebel
EUREAU Secretary General

Oliver Loebel, EUREAU Secretary General

Everything is changing, and water is in the middle of it all. New politics, new faces, policies under review… Here’s a glimpse at the different EU directives of the multi-dimensional water sector: water is in everything.

Europe is changing. The 2019 European Parliament elections reflected this, with the two traditionally strongest groups – the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats – both losing seats. On the other hand, Greens, pro-EU centrists and liberals and Eurosceptic forces all made gains.

Coupled with this shift, the European Commission is changing, with the president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, driving an agenda for a more sustainable, ‘zero-pollution’ green deal. This is to be achieved thanks to an inter-departmental strategy that addresses water quality as well as hazardous substances, industrial emissions, amongst others.

EurEau shares this view. And it is timely that the EU institutions are making this commitment as the EU’s water policies are in the midst of being reviewed and revised.

We consider environmental protection paramount to EU law; it is time that the principles of precaution, prevention and polluter-pays are transformed from vague words that are largely ignored into the robust ideals they are.

By keeping harmful pollutants out of our water, we can go a long way to safeguarding our supply, avoid costly treatments and contribute to the Circular Economy and meet the Commission’s zero-pollution ambition. Naturally, this zero-pollution ambition will directly affect EU legislation governing the water sector.

The Regulation on Water Reuse will guarantee that crops irrigated with treated wastewater are safe for human consumption. Photo: Emilio Garcia

The Drinking Water Directive is already close to adoption. A number of quality parameters were revised to further protect consumers. A risk-based approach will be implemented comprising drinking water resources, production and supply, and distribution systems in buildings. Importantly, the new directive will put in place an approval scheme for materials in contact with drinking water. This will guarantee that the products our water operators procure on the market do not release hazardous substances.

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