Members' Research Service By / March 1, 2023

Urban wastewater treatment: Updating EU rules [EU Legislation in Progress][Policy podcast]

Urban wastewater carries a range of organic and inorganic substances, as well as dissolved and suspended solids.

© arhendrix / Adobe Stock

Written by Vivienne Halleux (2nd edition, updated on 27.09.2023).

Under the European Green Deal, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a recast of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive in October 2022. Dating back to 1991, and instrumental to the achievement of European Union water policy objectives, the directive needs to be updated and adapted to new challenges and realities.

The recast proposal would introduce new obligations to better control pollution due to rainwater, impose stricter standards for nutrient removal and require advanced treatment for the removal of micro-pollutants. To cover treatment costs, a system of extended producer responsibility (EPR) targeting pharmaceuticals and cosmetics would be set up. To align the directive with the Green Deal’s ambitions, an energy neutrality obligation would be introduced for wastewater treatment plants. Requirements on water reuse and sludge management would be clarified to enhance circularity. Health parameters would be monitored in wastewater to support public health action.

In Parliament, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, responsible for the file, adopted its report on 20 September 2023. It will be put to the vote during the October I plenary session. The text as adopted will become Parliament’s position for future negotiations with the Council, which has still to agree on a general approach.


Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning urban wastewater treatment (recast)
Committee responsible:Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)COM(2022) 541 final
Rapporteur:Nils Torvalds (Renew, Finland)2022/0345(COD)
Shadow rapporteurs:Deirdre Clune (EPP, Ireland)
Marek Paweł Balt (S&D, Poland)
Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, Denmark)
Pietro Fiocchi (ECR, Italy)
Danilo Oscar Lancini (ID, Italy)
Nikolaj Villumsen (The Left, Denmark)
Ordinary legislative procedure (COD)
(Parliament and Council on equal footing
– formerly ‘co-decision’)
Next steps expected: Plenary vote on committee report
timeline-10 steps-voted in plenary

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