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Urban Waste Water Directive Overview

Latest news

  • 16/11/2018: Public stakeholder conference on the Evaluation of the UWWTD. Available information from the conference can be found here.
  • 13/07/2018: Publication of the Open Public Consultation on the Evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Please share your views with us here! The consultation remains open until 19/10/2018.
  • 14/12/2017: Adoption of the 9th Commission Report on the implementation of the Urban Waste Water 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 to ensure sufficient collection and treatment.
  • 12/10/2017: The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is under evaluation. A Roadmap was published in October 2017. More information on the Evaluation process is available here.


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.