The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) requires Member States to ensure that urban areas collect and treat waste water which would otherwise pollute rivers, lakes and seas. By doing so, urban waste water treatment (UWWT) plays a key role in supporting the EU towards the zero pollution ambition set out in the European Green Deal, protecting human health and aquatic ecosystems. UWWT also has an important role to play in the circular economy, enabling the reuse of treated waste water and sewage sludge, the production of renewable energy, and the recycling of nutrients. The importance of access to clean water and sanitation is embedded in Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Supplying clean water and collecting waste water has required huge investment across Europe in recent decades.

Did you know?

  urban waste water treatment plants are reported by the EU under the UWWTD

The volume of waste water collected in urban areas of the EU is similar to the load generated by   million people

Across the whole EU, about  of urban waste waters are collected and treated in accordance with the UWWTD

*EU= EU-27, Norway and Iceland

How does urban waste water treatment work?

Collection and treatment of urban waste water is essential to protect human health and the environment.
Across Europe, urban waste water treatment plants address widely varying conditions, such as the different substances in sewage, the size of the population being served, the requirements of the receiving waters and the local climate.
Much has been done to provide collection and treatment of urban waste water, but new pressures such as adapting to climate change, providing facilities in urban and rural areas, and tackling newly identified pollutants all require substantial investment in addition to maintaining existing infrastructure.
Energy costs and scarce resources should be reasons to promote water efficiency. They also provide opportunities for urban waste water treatment to contribute more to the circular economy, for example, through energy generation, water reuse and materials recycling (Urban waste water treatment for 21st century challenges. EEA Briefing 2021).