Integration of freshwater environmental policies and wastewater treatment plant management

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In the last decade the political awareness of river water quality issues has grown substantially over the world and legislation is accordingly adapting. In the European Union (EU), two different directives regulate separately the characteristics of the discharged water and the chemical status of the receiving freshwater ecosystem. On the one hand, the characteristics of the urban effluents are regulated by the EU Directive 91/271/EEC, which defines limits on different elements set in the form of both static emission limits and minimum percentage load reductions. On the other hand, the characteristics of the receiving freshwater ecosystems are described in the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EEC), which sets minimum 'good' chemical and ecological status in water bodies that should be achieved by 2015, and aims for an ecosystem-based management. With the support of an example, we show that there is a gap in these EU environmental policies leading to non-integrated management, which may result on adverse environmental and economical consequences. We believe that these policies should be updated and tuned to account for an integrated perspective, allowing a more efficient and sustainable management of wastewater treatment plants, maximizing the ecological, economical and social benefits of the system as a whole ​
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