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EU moves to upgrade Europe's drinking water

EU moves to upgrade Europe's drinking water

Water

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission proposed Thursday a revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive, in an effort to improve the quality and people's access to drinking water, as well as reduce consumer use of plastic.

A European Citizens' Initiative "Right2Water" gathered 1.6 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans.

This legislative proposal is a response to that initiative. and aims to guarantee this right, empower consumers and ensure that water suppliers provide consumers with clearer information on water consumption, on the cost structure as well as on the price per litre allowing a comparison with the price of bottled water.

The initiative will contribute to the reduction of unnecessary plastic use and limiting the EU's carbon footprint, says the Commission. EC Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said: "With this proposal we facilitate the transition to a circular economy, helping Member States manage drinking water in a resource-efficient manner. It implies reduction of energy use and unnecessary water loss. Thanks to increased transparency it will also empower consumers and push them towards more sustainable choices, for example using tap water."

While most people living in the EU enjoy very good access to high quality drinking water, the proposal will improve water quality and safety by adding new and emerging substances to the list of criteria for determining water safety (such as legionella and chlorate) - taking into account latest scientific knowledge and recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

The new rules will require Member States to improve access for all people, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups who currently have difficult access to drinking water. In practice, that means setting up equipment for access to drinking water in public spaces, launching campaigns to inform citizens about the quality of their water and encouraging administrations and public buildings to provide access to drinking water.

The public will also be given easy, user-friendly – including online – access to information about the quality and supply of drinking water in their living area, improving confidence in tap water. According to estimates, the new measures would reduce potential health risks associated with drinking water from 4% to below 1%.

Lower consumption of bottled water can in addition help households in Europe save more than EUR 600 million per year. With improved confidence in tap water, citizens can also contribute to reducing plastic waste from bottled water, including marine litter.

Plastic bottles are one of the most common single use plastic items found on European beaches. The update of the Drinking Water Directive is seen as an important legislative step towards implementing the EU Plastics Strategy presented on 16 January 2018.

Better management of drinking water from Member States will avoid unnecessary loss of water and contribute to lowering the CO2 footprint. The new risk-based approach to safety will help to carry out safety checks in a more targeted manner where risks are higher. In parallel, the Commission will also accelerate work on standardisation to ensure that construction products in the water sector across the EU's internal market, such as pipes and tanks, do not pollute drinking water.

Safer drinking water for Europeans - background guide

Proposal for a revised Drinking Water Directive

Factsheet: Safer drinking water for all Europeans

Drinking Water Directive

EU Plastics Strategy


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