Effectiveness of urban wastewater treatment policies in selected countries: an EEA pilot study

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Water pollution caused by wastewater persists despite three decades of effort to clean up European surface waters and despite the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD). Several EU Member States have yet to satisfy the requirements of the directive. A European Commission report released in 2004 noted that several countries had failed to designate sensitive areas and were behind schedule in establishing the capacity of sewage treatment as required by the directive deadlines in 1998 and 2000. As the next deadline is approaching at the end of 2005, for extending sewage treatment to urban areas with more than 2000 inhabitants, the EEA has acknowledged the need to improve our understanding of the inherent implementation problem.

This pilot study examines the effectiveness of wastewater policies and measures in six Member States in order to identify and understand the reasons for both the successes and the shortfalls in implementation. Two of these countries have almost fully implemented the directive, two have yet to do so, and two have only recently acceded to the EU and are therefore allowed more time to accomplish the environmental acquis. The report seeks to clarify the role of local authorities, policy instruments and financial mechanisms in securing effective implementation, and it also addresses the issue of cost-effectiveness. The report focuses on the extension of sewage plants with appropriate levels of treatment (biological or advanced) and trends in discharges to surface waters.

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