Revision of the UWWTD: An opportunity to enshrine the human right to Water & Sanitation in EU Law


Water Europe, along with several of its members, has joined the Coalition on Access to Sanitation, which published its Joint Statement for the Promotion of Access to Sanitation for All in Europe on October 23, supported by 26 organisations.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, the Coalition urges the European Commission to seize the opportunity given by the revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and enshrine in EU law the right to access to adequate sanitation services recognised by the United Nations. A Water-Smart Society can leave no one behind. A Water-Smart Society is a society in which the true value of water is recognised and realised, and all available water sources are managed in such a way that every need is afforded, including economic, environmental and social ones.

Yet 10 million people still lack access to safe sanitation services in Europe. The new Drinking Water Directive has rightly introduced an article promoting access to water. We believe the European Union should seize the opportunity of the revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive to introduce similar legal provisions ensuring access to sanitation in line with the SDGs. In its position on the post- COVID19 recovery plans and in its white paper on SDGs, Water Europe has already promoted the importance of access to sanitation.

For Water Europe, a holistic approach is paramount in introducing new provisions on the right of access to sanitation into the Directive: the guarantee of access to safe sanitation services cannot be disconnected from the need to maintain and improve the measures protecting European citizens from pollutants, nor from improving the resilience of the water network against weather events. We believe that digitalisation of the water sector is the answer to protect and ameliorate the quality of water in all contexts, by monitoring pollutants such as CECs and limiting antimicrobial resistance. Constant monitoring through sensors would also lead to great increases in efficiency both in the use of energy and of water. Along with digital solutions, the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions – for instance restoration and expansion of wetlands – would help further secure the resilience of water infrastructure against extreme events, thus guaranteeing access to water and sanitation even in dire situations such as storms and floods, the frequency of which is on the rise due to climate change.

The revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is a major opportunity to build a water-friendly legislation that truly protects European citizens and guarantees their rights of access to a clean and resilient source of water, taking a significant step in building a Water-Smart Society.

We therefore join the Coalition in its call to the European Commission urging it to take action in introducing the right of access to sanitation in European legislation.


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