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EU water rule could increase UK carbon emissions

A new report warns that EU waste water quality demands are costing UK water companies millions every year and leading to extra carbon emissions.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers stated that the EU Water Framework Directive has improved natural water quality, particularly in UK rivers, but that this has only been achieved through intensive treatments which are hugely damaging to the environment.

The report estimates that 1% of all of the UK’s electricity is consumed by compressors used for the aeration of wastewater at the nation’s sewage treatment works. Another area of waste water and raw sewage treatment that has increased in importance, is the requirement to control levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which are growing due to the increasing use of fertilisers and detergents. As although natural processes do remove both nitrate and phosphate (in most cases), the levels of reduction required cannot be achieved through natural processes alone therefore the ‘Green House Gas’ (GHG) emissions associated with these chemicals is significant.

Dr Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, stated ‘the UN climate change talks will hopefully help put providing clean water and sanitation for all and driving down world emissions in the fore-front of political decision making’. However, she warned that ‘a one size fits all’ single European vision to improve water quality is neither effective, efficient nor appropriate’.


Recommendations from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

  • The Effective Catchment Management called for by Ofwat will not happen without structural reform. The water industry is too complex to achieve these goals. Catchment Management Teams must be given powers to make binding decisions, including the management of finance to implement those decisions. This should be recognised and treated as a key aspect of Ofwat’s strategy.
  • The current Water Framework Directive has created a number of unintended consequences. An example is the way it is causing greater environmental impact through unreasonable waste water quality demands, driving up energy and chemical use. The Directive needs to be urgently reviewed to enable a more holistic approach to water management across the whole water network.


About Clearwater

At Clearwater Technology we create bespoke client packages to ensure we are always using the most ecological and innovative techniques possible. Click here to read the full report by Catchment Management in the Water Industry.