Europe´s extreme Droughts – can treated Wastewater help?


In the summer 2022 Europe was hit by the worst drought in 500 years. A warning level was in place for 47% of European countries and in many places, people saw their soil completely dry up.

Severe droughts, exacerbated by climate change, particularly affect southern regions like Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Scientists are exploring new methods like wastewater recycling are being explored to combat water scarcity. In 2018 researchers in Tossa de Mar, Spain and elsewhere started a project called “NextGen” to produce high-quality water from municipal wastewater which meets both treated water and drinking water regulations. This recycled water is already being used for irrigation, reducing pressure on freshwater sources.

Experts say it’s important we use circular economy principles to manage water. They advocate for efficient water recovery, energy, and nutrient recycling to mitigate pollution and reduce water usage. But regulatory challenges still exist, with some standards demanding treated wastewater quality akin to drinking water, posing financial and practical hurdles. Spain’s approach, with a more pragmatic, risk-based regulation, balances safety with feasibility in wastewater reuse. These initiatives signify a crucial step towards sustainable water management amidst escalating climate challenges.
The NextGen project was completed in 2022.

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