Risk assessment for contaminants of emerging concern in water reuse systems has been the focus of the JRC Water Reuse Technical Workshop on 26th January 2024. 270 participants discussed challenges and practices on assessing micropollutants in reclaimed water took place in the online format.

Due to the high relevance of the topic to zero pollution of groundwater and drinking water, we would like to share some of the interesting key takeaways of this meeting.

As water stress is exacerbated by climate change impacts, water reuse can play an important role in tackling water scarcity and drought. However, to avoid pollution of surface water and groundwater, risk management has to be conducted properly. The risk management needs to take into account contaminants of emerging concern (CEC). These pollutants might have been around for some time but only now we are becoming aware of the risks posed. PFAS, Bisphenol A, pesticides and pharmaceuticals have been identified as priority substances and shall be added to the Surface Water and Groundwater Watchlists.

The representative of DG Environment, Unit Sustainable Freshwater Management, presented the key elements of the EC proposal on this new list of priority substances that are used for the implementation of the Water framework directive (WFD), the Groundwater Directive (GWD), the novel Drinking Water Directive (DWD, already in force) and the EQSD (Environmental Quality Standards directive or ‘priority substances directive). Close links exist to the Water Reuse Regulation (WRR) and the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD, not yet adopted). The EC presentation was complemented by case studies from Germany, Spain and France which highlighted planned integration of CEC into the risk management of water reuse and remaining challenges to feasibility and cost-effectiveness.

With a focus on groundwater and drinking water, several of ZeroPollution4Water Cluster projects work on novel methods to monitor CEC and will develop risk management strategies. This shall support water policies as well as utilities.

More information:

Overview about Water Framework Directive

Proposal for the amendment of the WFD