Resources Regeneration: Inauguration of France’s First Unit for Reusing Treated Wastewater to Produce Drinking Water

Veolia and Vendée Eau inaugurated France’s first unit for reusing treated wastewater to produce drinking water as part of the Jourdain programme. This solution will provide an additional resource of 1.5 million m3 of drinking water over the period from May to October, during periods of increased water shortage in the Vendée.

The development of alternative water sources, such as the reuse of treated wastewater, is part of a range of solutions for dealing with the increasingly frequent droughts in France. Using this resource to produce drinking water, as is the case in several countries around the world, can be an effective response, particularly in coastal areas that are subject to recurrent water stress, are densely populated and have high tourist flows. 

With an estimated water deficit of 8 million m3 by 2025-2030, equivalent to the consumption of 150,000 people, the Vendée is an example of a region that has shown the vision and determination to prepare for the resource scarcity crisis by becoming a French pioneer in the production of drinking water from wastewater.

World leader in water technologies, Veolia was able to contribute its expertise and the best of its global know-how to design and implement a refining unit that will initially (from 2023 to 2026) reuse 1.5 million m3, out of the city’s 4.5 million m3 of wastewater. This capacity will then be gradually increased to reuse between 2 and 3 million m3 of wastewater by 2027, equivalent to the consumption of 60,000 inhabitants. 

A key element of the project, the refining unit is a concentrate of high technology and innovation. In five stages, it removes particulate pollution, bacteria, viruses and micropollutants such as pesticides and drug residues to produce water of the highest quality. To achieve the highest degree of performance and efficiency, Veolia has employed its patented technology based on ultrafiltration and low-pressure reverse osmosis (Barrel™). This solution, containing 200 membrane elements as well as an ultraviolet disinfection and chlorination process, guarantees the production of fresh water that complies with all relevant quality standards.

“A national first, the Jourdain programme is the country’s flagship project, demonstrating that France has the technologies and the commitment at the local level to move ahead and to address the challenges posed by climate change. Its launch complements and reinforces the importance of the Water Plan’s ambition to increase wastewater reuse from 1 per cent to 10 per cent in 5 years,” said Estelle Brachlianoff, Veolia’s Chief Executive Officer. “Here we are concretely inventing the drinking water service of the future: a service of excellence, at the cutting edge of innovation, capable of responding to one of the greatest challenges in today’s water world: that of scarcity.”

“The reuse of wastewater to produce drinking water is the fruit of the collective ambition of a number of committed local authorities and represents a real advantage in terms of competitiveness and attractiveness for these areas. It provides a proven and sustainable response to the increasing scarcity of water resources,” said Jean-François Nogrette, Director of the France and Special Waste Europe zone.