Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Urban waste water treatment

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Multilingual display
Text

Urban waste water treatment

 

SUMMARY OF:

Directive 91/271/EEC – urban wastewater treatment

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?

  • It aims to protect the environment in the European Union (EU) from the adverse effects (such as eutrophication*) of urban wastewater
  • It sets out EU-wide rules for collection, treatment and wastewater discharge. The law also covers wastewater generated by industries such as the agro-food industries (like food-processing and brewing).

KEY POINTS

  • EU countries must:
    • collect and treat wastewater in urban settlements with a population of at least 2,000 and apply secondary treatment* on the collected wastewaters;
    • apply more advanced treatment in urban settlements with populations over 10,000 located in designated sensitive areas*;
    • guarantee that treatment plants are properly maintained, so as to ensure sufficient performance, and can operate under all normal weather conditions;
    • take measures to limit the pollution of receiving waters from storm water overflows under extreme situations, such as unusually heavy rain;
    • monitor the performance of treatment plants and receiving waters;
    • monitor sewage sludge disposal and re-use.
  • As well as outlining methods for the monitoring and evaluation of results, Annex I lists general requirements for:
    • collecting systems;
    • discharges from urban wastewater treatment plants, including emission limit values for these;
    • industrial wastewater discharged into urban collecting systems.
  • Annex II describes the criteria for the identification of sensitive and less sensitive areas.
  • The last available report from the European Commission on the implementation status and implementation programmes, published in 2016, notes that this directive has played an essential role in improving the quality of EU waters. However, there are still some implementation gaps, especially concerning the appropriate treatment level. The investments performed so far and planned by the EU countries are considerable, but are indispensable to bridge the above-mentioned gap and also to maintain compliance. Furthermore, the substantial contribution from the urban waste water sector to economic growth and the creation of jobs is significant.

FROM WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?

From 29 May 1991, with several different deadlines for the various requirements. In 1998, the Commission adopted Directive 98/15/EC to clarify some of the rules due to differing interpretations in EU countries. This came into force on 27 March 1998. Other deadlines apply to countries that joined the EU from 2004 onwards. These are specified in the Accession Treaties with each of the countries concerned.

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

* KEY TERMS

Eutrophication: enrichment of water by nutrients causing, among other things, an accelerated growth of algae which disturb the balance of water organisms and the water quality.

Secondary treatment: a process generally involving biological treatment, so that the requirements in Annex I of the Directive are accomplished.

Sensitive areas: natural waters which are found to be or may become eutrophic in the near future if protective action is not taken, or those which need more advance treatment to reach compliance with other EU directives (e.g., the Bathing Water Directive)

MAIN DOCUMENT

Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban wastewater treatment (OJ L 135, 30.5.1991, pp. 40–52)

Successive amendments to Directive 91/271/EEC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Commission Implementing Decision 2014/431/EU of 26 June 2014 concerning formats for reporting on the national programmes for the implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC (OJ L 197, 4.7.2014, pp. 77–86)

Report from the Commission — Implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban wastewater treatment, as amended by Commission Directive 98/15/EC of 27 February 1998 — Summary of the measures implemented by the Member States and assessment of the information received pursuant to Articles 17 and 13 of the Directive (COM(98) 775 final, 15.1.1999)

Commission Report — Implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban wastewater treatment, as amended by Commission Directive 98/15/EC of 27 February 1998 (COM(2001) 685 final, 21.11.2001)

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions:— Implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban wastewater treatment, as amended by Commission Directive 98/15/EC of 27 February 1998 (COM(2004) 248 final, 23.4.2004)

Commission Staff Working Document — Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council — ‘Towards Sustainable Water Management in the European Union’ — First stage in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC [COM(2007) 128 final] [SEC(2007) 363] (SEC(2007) 362 final, 22.3.2007)

Commission Staff Working Document — 5th Commission Summary on the Implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (SEC(2009) 1114 final, 3.8.2009)

Commission Staff Working Document — 6th Commission Summary on the Implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (SEC(2011) 1561 final, 7.12.2011)

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Seventh report on the implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC) (COM(2013) 574 final, 7.8.2013)

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Eighth Report on the Implementation Status and the Programmes for Implementation (as required by Article 17) of Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste water treatment (COM(2016) 105 final, 4.3.2016)

last update 13.02.2017

Top