May 27. 2024. 8:02

The Daily

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France wants to catch up on wastewater reuse

The French government will review the rules allowing wastewater reuse, as France is “very late” in this field, Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu announced on Tuesday.

“We are obviously going to modify the rules concerning treated wastewater,” Béchu said on Tuesday, as a “water plan” is due to be presented in the next few days by Elisabeth Borne’s government.

This should concern “wastewater, rainwater and grey water” – water produced in the context of domestic activities.

“France is lagging far behind its European neighbours in this area,” Béchu acknowledged.

In France, only 0.1% of treated wastewater is reused, while in Italy and Spain, the proportion rises to around 10% and 15%, respectively. Instead of being reused for non-food purposes, it is generally discharged into the sea. Given these figures, “the potential before us is very great”, the minister said in an interview with the regional daily Nice Matin.

This announcement comes in the context of a major winter drought which has left the country’s water tables lacking. After 32 days without rainfall at the start of 2023, “the situation of the water tables has deteriorated […] and should continue to deteriorate”, warned the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BGRM) in March.

In addition to wastewater reuse, the government could also take action on rainwater harvesting and reuse and on combating leakages in water distribution networks. The rate of leaks in the networks has been around 20% since 2021, according to a report by the French Federation of Water Companies (FP2E) – a figure below those of its European neighbours.

In Nice Matin, Béchu called for “a change of philosophy on the quantity, quality, governance and means” of water and to “get out of a culture of abundance where we think we will never lack.”

The government’s plan must be, in the words of President Emmanuel Macron, a “water sobriety plan”, which is to “include about fifty measures and deal with sobriety, quantity, quality, financial means, governance”, the minister explained.

(Davide Basso |