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Urban Waste Water Directive Overview

Latest news

  • 28/04/2021: Launch of the Online Public Consultation on the revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Please “Have your say” here. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks and close on 21/07/2021.
  • 10/09/2020: Adoption of the 10th Commission Report on the implementation of the Urban Waste Treatment Directive. Significant progress has been achieved, but despite the high level of compliance, a number of challenges remain, and the waste water sector continues to require significant investments and good planning to ensure sufficient collection and treatment. (see also Press release)
  • 21/07/2020: Launch of the impact assessment on the potential revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (see roadmap).



 In this section of the website you can find:

The Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste-water treatment was adopted on 21 May 1991. Its objective is to protect the environment from the adverse effects of urban waste water discharges and discharges from certain industrial sectors (see Annex III of the Directive) and concerns the collection, treatment and discharge of:

  • Domestic waste water
  • Mixture of waste water
  • Waste water from certain industrial sectors (see Annex III of the Directive)

This is illustrated in the figure below:

Waste per industrial sector
(click on the picture to enlarge it)

Four main principles are laid down in the Directive:

Specifically the Directive requires:

  • The collection and treatment of waste water in all agglomerations of >2000 population equivalents (p.e.);
  • Secondary treatment of all discharges from agglomerations of > 2000 p.e., and more advanced treatment for agglomerations >10 000 population equivalents in designated sensitive areas and their catchments;
  • A requirement for pre-authorisation of all discharges of urban wastewater, of discharges from the food-processing industry and of industrial discharges into urban wastewater collection systems;
  • Monitoring of the performance of treatment plants and receiving waters; and
  • Controls of sewage sludge disposal and re-use, and treated waste water re-use whenever it is appropriate.

The EEA urban waste water interactive map is available here.


If you have any questions about the Evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive or any suggestions that could help us, in general, to improve this site, please send an email to the functional Urban Waste Water mailbox of DG Environment: