The starting point of the online community brainstorming were the recommendations included in the forthcoming policy brief on Sustainable water management in the circular economy, through which a series of transferable good practices is showcased in the backdrop of the latest EU policy developments relevant for the water sector.

24 participants from 7 different Interreg Europe projects as well as from the EUROCITIES working group on water attended this event, which saw 17 flash presentations unfolding one after the other across 3 different thematic blocks. Access the presentations and find the key findings outlined below.

Policy solutions on water reuse

Making inventories of reclaimed water is critical for ensuring that water reuse is carried out efficiently and monitoring guarantees trust in the quality of reclaimed water. Solutions for boosting alternatives to reduce the pressure on waterbodies should be further deployed. Prior to conducting water reuse, both in agriculture and industrial processes, a risk assessment should be carried for guaranteeing the protection of aquifers and the safe provision of drinking water.

Policymakers should strive for supporting water reuse in industrial processes such as textiles production where novel technologies can be cost-effectively applied thereby increasing resource efficiency. Local and regional authorities may also consider treating and reusing harvested rainwater to clean their vehicle fleets, to help reduce the overall environmental footprint of the public administration.

The majority of participants agreed that vehicle washing is cost-effective and easy to implement. They also underlined that communication with the stakeholders is key to achieving greater reuse of water.

Policy solutions on urban wastewater and sewage sludge

The safe use of adequately treated sewage sludge in agriculture should be supported as well as the production of high-quality compost. Deploying robotic boats in water catchment areas can be an effective way for getting real-time quality data to complement the mandatory sampling carried out at the level of urban wastewater treatment plants. To reduce the amount of water treated by such plants, solutions with high stormwater retention capacity like green roofs and rain gardens may be implemented.

Designing new urban wastewater treatment plants according to circular economy principles and turning the existing ones into resource-efficient facilities should - as presently done in Porto - also become the standard. Furthermore, in order to reduce the release into the environment of persisting pollutants such as microplastics and pharmaceutical residues as well as of pathogenic microorganisms, innovative solutions such as nanotechnologies should be supported for reducing their release into the environment.

The water experts highlighted in particular the importance of storm water management to reduce the amount of wastewater and called for more activities for composting sewage sludge.

Policy solutions for groundwater pollution

Severe soil and groundwater contamination such as the one caused by lindane should be addressed without delay through strategic action plans. In such cases, especially if the pollution threatens the safe supply of drinking water, remedial action should be prioritised over control and containment. Rehabilitation strategies may be particularly needed to eradicate leachate pollution at landfill sites.

The possibilities of using the topsoil layers to address water-related challenges, including groundwater pollution, deserve to be explored. In urban areas pollution monitoring may be kept constant by integrating groundwater testing into spatial planning requirements as currently done in Malmö.

Participants were particularly favorable to addressing groundwater pollution at the level of urban planning and supported both measures for landfill remediation and better land management. 

You can access the presentations here.

Policy Learning Platform resources

Image credit: Photo by Arek Socha from Pixabay