The taxonomy is a still-developing project to define sustainable types of activities at the EU level. We write about the latest changes in Water Issues. Water – an essential element for human functioning – is included in the Taxonomy as one of six objectives. From the start of the project in 2020. Until now, it was not clear how sustainable use and protection of waters and marine resources would be defined. In the published draft of the delegated act to the Taxonomy, introducing technical qualification criteria, we can finally find the first version of the answer.

What is sustainable water use and conservation?

The draft Taxonomy Delegated Regulation at this point identifies only 6 types of activities that can be considered sustainable. They are:

  1. manufacturing, installation and services related to leakage reduction technologies resulting in reduced water losses in water supply systems;
  2. water supply;
  3. municipal wastewater treatment;
  4. sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS);
  5. Natural solutions for flood and drought protection;
  6. Providing IT solutions to reduce water losses.

Thus, we identify 4 areas in which activities can be considered sustainable in light of the Taxonomy – sustainable water supply, wastewater treatment, urban retention, and drought and flood protection.

What are the requirements for sustainable operations?

The overarching principle, encompassing all types of activities listed in the draft regulation, is not to jeopardize the achievement of good status or potential of water bodies within the meaning of the Water Framework Directive. This approach is in line with existing requirements set forth in the Taxonomy, if only with the “DNSH” principle – do no serious damage – which we have already written about in Water Issues.

The technical criteria for water supply construction and water loss reduction refer to the requirements of Directive 2020/2184 on the quality of water intended for human consumption, as well as the leakage counting methodology (ILI). Also important is the provision stating that the construction of new waterworks or the enlargement of existing networks on water bodies that are not in good condition due to water quantity does not comply with the Taxonomy. This is an important provision for areas with groundwater deficits.

The basic criterion for a significant contribution to sustainable development for natural retention activities is their inclusion in the Plans: flood risk management, water management or drought management. All activities must be specifically defined in terms of the expected effect and deadlines. It is also necessary to include monitoring of their effectiveness.

The technical eligibility criteria are not very restrictive for the indicated activities. The requirements largely boil down to compliance with the provisions of EU directives and key water planning documents. It should be noted, however, that the list of activity types is quite short and does not include, for example, agriculture or buffer zones.

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