Circular economy (CE) for water aims to maximise value derived from water, processes, and practices. As a result, the recovery of wastewater and renewable water resources is used to offset the exploitation and impact of abstracting new water resources. New regulations such as the new circular economy action plan by the European Commission are emerging to promote circularity within the Green Deal agenda. However, there is still a need for research and practical insights into the interaction and integration of CE for water within existing policies and regulations, and its practical application specifically at the project level. This paper presents findings from demonstrator cases used to explore the opportunities and constraints in the policy, process, and procedural frameworks that govern water circularity in important sectors in Europe. Desk reviews are used to examine and compare European legislation against national and regional legislative frameworks within the different member states. Interviews and demonstrator project feedback enabled the exploration of the policy and value constraints at the project level. The findings provide unique insights into the policy and legislative enablers for and barriers to implementing CE for water in key sectors and specifically at the project level. The paper concludes with a five-point route map for new and revised policies and regulations targeting improved uptake of circular water technologies in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-892
Number of pages28
JournalClean Technologies
Issue number3
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 776541.


  • circular economy for water
  • circular water solutions
  • policymaking
  • regulations
  • water ruse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Global and Planetary Change


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