Resources regeneration : inauguration of France's first unit for reusing treated wastewater to produce drinking water

  • This water technology solution provides an additional resource of 1.5 million m3 of drinking water over the period from May to October for dry years in Vendée;
  • The project is fully in line with the French Water Plan, which aims to increase wastewater reuse capacity in France from 1% to 10% within 5 years;
  • Veolia uses a patented water technology: the Barrel™, a compact, pressurized tank that guarantees the production of freshwater that complies with all potability quality standards while ensuring energy efficiency of the treatment process and a footprint reduced by 25%. 

On November 16, 2023, 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% to 10% 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.

Veolia and wastewater reuse

A world leader in water technologies, Veolia has been an expert in wastewater reuse for more than 20 years, and has been able to contribute its know-how to this pioneering project in France, through very strong technical guarantees of both environmental and health performance. Internationally, Veolia masters the entire value chain, enabling it to offer its customers the full benefit of its expertise in terms of project management, regulations and technical know-how. This is notably the case in Windhoek (Namibia), where Veolia has been operating the world's first plant to develop this process for 20 years. This plant supplies 400,000 inhabitants with drinking water from recycled wastewater, to alleviate local water stress. But also in West Basin (California, USA), where Veolia supplies five qualities of recycled water for numerous uses in the region from treated wastewater. Since 1995, this recycling has prevented the withdrawal of 1 billion m3 of water from the water table. In France, our program for the installation of compact water recycling units (REUT box) has been a resounding success, with almost 55 communes already expressing an interest in this solution.

About Veolia          
Veolia Group aims to become the benchmark company for ecological transformation. Present on five continents with nearly 213,000 employees, the Group designs and deploys useful, practical solutions for the management of water, waste and energy that are contributing to a radical turnaround of the current situation. Through its three complementary activities, Veolia helps to develop access to resources, to preserve available resources and to renew them. In 2022, the Veolia group provided 111 million inhabitants with drinking water and 97 million with sanitation, produced nearly 44 million megawatt hours and recovered 61 million tonnes of waste. Veolia Environnement (Paris Euronext: VIE) achieved consolidated revenue of 42.885 billion euros in