UWWTD: the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
Contaminated by viruses, bacteria and dangerous chemicals, untreated waste water can pose a risk to health and the environment. In addition, waste water contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can damage fresh water and the sea, encouraging the growth of algae that suppress other forms of life in a process called eutrophication. The subject of waste water treatment is still relevant today. As a result, about 12% of all surface water in the EU is not considered of excellent ecological quality.
To address this problem, on 21 May 1991 the European Commission approved Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste water treatment.
This Directive (the UWWTD) requires Member States to ensure that their waste water is suitably collected and treated in their cities and towns.
The UWWTD is now considered successful in achieving its goal of reducing the environmental impact of waste water disposal. A series of support measures, including compliance support, financial aid and funding, have contributed to the generally high degree of implementation of the Directive. The decrease in biochemical oxygen demand, nitrogen and phosphorus in surface and coastal water is testament to the success of the Directive.
The UWWTD has existed for some time now (since 1991). Over the last 30 years, our understanding of the stress placed on bodies of water, new environmental pressures and technological developments has changed. The growing importance of circular economies might also have an impact on the activities included in the Directive. In addition, since the implementation of the UWWTD, the relative legal framework in the EU has changed, i.e., the approval of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), the amendment to the Directive concerning bathing water (2006/7/CE) and other regulations related to the UWWTD.
The Directive on drinking water (98/83/EC) has also been updated.
All of these factors have contributed to the need for an assessment of the UWWTD. Public consultation is currently under way, with its adoption by the Commission expected to take place in the first quarter of 2022.