On February 1, 2018, the European Commission (EC) published a proposal for a revision of the “Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption” (FPF reported). In a press release published on the same day, the EC said that the proposed legislation “will improve the quality of drinking water and access to it as well as provide better information to citizens.” The proposal introduces “a risk-based water safety assessment in the entire EU,” what should allow “identify[ing] possible risks to water sources already at distribution level.”

One other aim of the proposed revision, as highlighted by the EC, was “ensuring that water suppliers provide consumers with clearer information . . . on the price,” in order to allow a “comparison with the price of bottled water.” This is expected to “be contributing to the environmental goals of reducing unnecessary plastic use,” pushing the consumers “towards more sustainable choices,” i.e., using tap water instead of bottled water. This is expected to save energy resources and contribute to lowering the consumption of single-use plastics, in line with the EU plastics strategy (FPF reported). Collectively, responsible water management should support the EU’s transition to circular economy.

The revised legislation also provides “improved standards for the safety of water.” These standards have been “updated and extended in line with the latest scientific knowledge and based on recommendations by the World Health Organization.” They focus on providing protection against “pathogenic bacteria and viruses; naturally occurring but harmful substances like uranium or microcystins; emerging contaminants from industry like perfluorinated compounds;” and “disinfection by-products or distribution impurities like chlorate, haloacetic acids, or bisphenol A [CAS 80-05-7].” The specific limits for individual substances and substance groups are outlined in the Annex to the revised legislation.

As explained in the EC’s Q&A document, the proposal “does not regulate individual products.” However, the standards specifying “permitted amounts of certain substances in water” are expected to give “very clear guidance for the production of hygienically safe pipes and taps.” For example, “strict limits for acrylamide, bisphenol A, epichlorohydrin, nonylphenol, PFAS, or vinyl chloride, . . . will ensure safe plastic components.” Further, the EC plans to “accelerate work on standardization 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.”

The proposal also addresses microplastics as “an issue of emerging concerns,” planning for a regular monitoring of “microplastics which are considered relevant based on a hazard assessment” in water bodies used as sources of drinking water.

An impact assessment accompanying the EC’s proposal concluded that “the significant positive health benefits of safer drinking water will clearly offset the moderate costs.” The assessment also predicts cost reductions “through lower consumption of bottled water,” what may allow “households in Europe [to] save more than €600 million per year.”

A public consultation on the EC’s proposal is open until March 30, 2018.

Read more

EC (February 1, 2018). “Revision of the Drinking Water Directive (RECAST 2017).

EC (February 1, 2018). “Safer drinking water for all Europeans.

EC (February 1, 2018). “Safer drinking water for all Europeans: Questions and answers.

Sam Morgan (February 1, 2018). “Leaky drinking water rules tightened by EU.Euractiv

Foodwatch (February 2, 2018). “Brussel belooft werk te maken van recht op schoon drinkwater.(in Dutch)

Chemical Watch (February 6, 2018). “EU targets EDCs in drinking water.

The European Chemical Industry Council (February 22, 2018). “Revision of Drinking Water Directive (DWD): Harmonisation is key.