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Water in the European Commission’s Proposal for the Circular Economy

Jan 28th, 2016 |


Last month, the European Commission published its highly anticipated proposal on how to turn the EU into circular economy. The Circular Economy Package consists of an EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy that establishes a programme of action, with measures covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The annex to the action plan sets out the timeline when the actions will be completed.

The Commission’s proposal highlights the impacts of water scarcity on environment and economy in some parts of the EU and proposed actions to promote the reuse of treated wastewater, including legislation on minimum requirements for reused water for irrigation and groundwater recharge. The European Commission is also currently working on a guidance document on the integration of water reuse in planning and management.

The European Parliamentary Group on Water met on the 27th of January for plenary session around the topic of Water and the Circular Economy. One key question coming out of the meeting was the question of whether or not water was appropriately reflected in the Circular Economy Package. Although, circular economy is structured around three pillars, efficiency, recovery and reuse, water reuse is the central focus of the Package. It is an area with an incredible capacity for growth; at the moment only 2.5% of treated effluent is reused. Additionally, water reuse alone could account for the reduction of 50,000 tonnes of resources. The development of best practice guidance will be an important next step on the part of policy-makers.

The true economic value is certainly undeniable, with 70 trillion euros directly or indirectly invested in water. What we need according to the EU’s elected representatives  are water prices that act as insurance, where there is an understanding of the true water costs by all collaborators, including end consumers. Only with that, will there be an understanding if the economic value of water conservation and recovery. The economic value of water also includes the creation of high quality jobs for skilled workers as the result of circular economy.

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