Recovery and Reuse

Wastewater reuse: a sustainable water management challenge for local authorities



Given the increasing frequency of droughts and the rollout of the French government's Water Plan, introducing initiatives that promote and facilitate sustainable water management is now a priority. It’s against this background that Saur has taken the decision to intensify its focus on wastewater reuse.



A wider context of water shortages and sustainable management

As the world faces up to the risk of global drought, the sustainability of our water management model is coming under ever-closer scrutiny. In France, less than 1% of the national water supply comes from treated wastewater, compared with 8% in Italy, 14% in Spain, and 90% in countries such as Namibia, Singapore and Israel.

So why are we so far behind? 

The main reason is a legal one: in France, the 2 main uses of REUSE - agricultural land irrigation and landscape watering - are subject to very strict legislation that leaves little room for other uses. 

Our reluctance may also be partly cultural, because France has always believed that it could never be affected by any shortage of water, and so has a fragmented overview of its water resources and a poor record of measuring their quantity and quality. France is also lagging behind in prospective studies.


The French legal framework is changing

The legislation around REUSE is now changing significantly, with a series of new decrees and ministerial orders published in 2023, and a new European regulation that came into force on June 25th last year.

  • The Water Plan introduced by the French government on March 30th, 2023, its 53 measures and its target of a 10% contribution from REUSE by 2030 (compared with the current level of below 1%)

  • Decree 2023-835 of August 29th, 2023 on the uses of stormwater and treated wastewater for non-domestic purposes, together with the conditions governing usage

  • Ministerial Order of December 14th, 2023 on the conditions under which treated wastewater is produced and used for landscape watering

  • Ministerial Order of December 18th, 2023 on the conditions under which treated wastewater is produced and used for crop irrigation

  • Draft decree and ministerial order of December 19th on the use of water unsuitable for human consumption for domestic purposes

  • Decree 2024-33 of January 24th, 2024 on the reuse of water by the food industry, and a range of other provisions relating to the safety of water intended for human consumption

  • 1 Ministerial Order relating to the urban uses of treated wastewater remains pending  

Legislation in other countries

Legislation regarding the specifications and uses of treated wastewater differs from country to country. 

So let’s take a look at what's happening around Europe. In Spain, for example, regulations tend to favor REUSE, while Portugal is advancing in the same direction, with regulations strictly linked with water reutilization (the Decree-Law DL 119/2019, of 21/08) establishing the legal regime for production and use of water for reuse.

On the contrary, Poland has no national legislation on this issue. In the Netherlands, based on the European Water Reuse Regulation, the Environment Act of January 1st, 2024 delegates regulatory powers to local level within the new framework created by the Quality of Living Environment decree published on the same date.

Looking beyond Europe, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries with ambitious REUSE targets, with Dubai is pursuing a target of 100% water reuse by 2030. While there is currently no specific legislation in place, there are some policies in place that reflect these targets.


How REUSE fits into the sustainable management strategy of your local authority

Urban REUSE: a powerful lever for finally establishing REUSE as an accessible resource

As things stand today, legislation does not encourage the reuse of treated wastewater, and projects to do so can sometimes fall foul of daunting administrative complexity.

The package of REUSE services offered by Saur is designed to make it easier for local authorities to reuse treated wastewater by providing them with technical support and help with administrative formalities from the initial design phase through to operation, including the grant application process. 

By targeting urban water uses, Urban REUSE makes it possible to replace drinking water with water from wastewater treatment plants following further processing - particularly by UV purification - for uses such as street or drain cleaning.


From Urban REUSE to Rural REUSE

The most effective strategy in terms of high-volume reuse is one that includes irrigation of agricultural land, otherwise known as Rural REUSE.

However, setting up Rural REUSE projects can take time, because discussing the issues raised inevitably involves bringing together a very large number of partners and users not usually in the habit of talking to one another.

In order to encourage local authorities to embrace this rural option, we believe it would be helpful to begin by demonstrating the feasibility of the REUSE solution on projects involving smaller volumes.

So in the first instance, Saur has decided to focus its attentions on Urban REUSE, with the ultimate aim of kickstarting the transition to a much wider approach to water reuse.

Urban REUSE enables local authorities to:

  • Begin making this transition smoothly and gradually
  • Address the issue of REUSE and be seen by their communities as taking action
  • Deliver a practical and effective response to the challenges of drought
  • Lead their communities by example
  • Reduce the pressure on drinking water availability



REUSE service packages that work seamlessly alongside all your other water efficiency measures

To prove its worth, REUSE must be used within a wider framework of overall water efficiency measures across the local authority area with the single aim of demonstrating how a number of small actions can combine to deliver big results.

So Urban REUSE is really a small building block of your overall water efficiency strategy, but one that becomes most effective when combined with a range of other measures: water saving kits, a water recycling policy for industrial users, higher level of water management awareness among farmers, etc.


Want to learn more about Saur REUSE service packages?

Our experts are ready and waiting to answer all your questions!




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