EU’s new Drinking Water Directive improves the safety of water intended for human consumption

Press release 2020-02-10 at 16:18

Press release was published in Finnish on 5 February

The ambassadors of the EU Member States adopted 5 February a shared political agreement on the content of the new Drinking Water Directive. The new Drinking Water Directive is aimed at guaranteeing a higher quality of drinking water, enhancing the accessibility of water, increasing the communication of information about water management and improving the energy efficiency of water utilities in the entire Union.

The ambassadors of the EU Member States today adopted a shared political agreement on the content of the new Drinking Water Directive. The new Drinking Water Directive is aimed at guaranteeing a higher quality of drinking water, enhancing the accessibility of water, increasing the communication of information about water management and improving the energy efficiency of water utilities in the entire Union.

Risk assessment improves preparedness for disruptions

In the future, the monitoring of the quality of drinking water in the entire Union will be based on systematic risk assessments and risk management in all parts of the water production chain. In addition to the risks involved in the extraction, treatment and supply of domestic water, the Directive requires better cooperation with the protection of surface and ground waters.  

The Directive previously regulated only the quality of drinking water in the users’ taps, which has not been sufficient to prevent disruptions related to water quality in advance. 

Monitoring of Legionella bacterium will increase

The Drinking Water Directive’s list of compounds to be tested for in domestic water has been updated to comply with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the latest scientific knowledge. The Directive promotes health by increasing the monitoring of endocrine disrupting compounds and the Legionella bacterium. 

Legionellosis, the disease caused by the Legionella bacterium, may cause severe respiratory tract infections. The bacteria may grow in the domestic water distribution networks of properties if the temperature of cold drinking water is too high or the temperature of hot water used for domestic purposes is too low. Legionellosis is considered a clearly underdiagnosed disease in Finland.

Use of building materials releasing hazardous substances to water will be regulated at EU level

The new Drinking Water Directive lays down a procedure for setting shared minimum health-based requirements for building materials that are in contact with water intended for human consumption within the EU. The intention is to create a list of substances and materials permitted in the manufacture of building products. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) operating in Helsinki will be given the task of compiling and regularly evaluating a health-based list of substances and materials.
The purpose of the new procedure is to promote the functioning of the EU’s internal market by harmonising the requirements set for the substances and materials.

New obligations for water services

In future, Member States must identify the social groups that do not have sufficient access to a minimum water supply. The accessibility of water for these groups of people must be improved. In addition, the transparency of water services will be improved by specifying the obligation of water utilities to provide information. 

The Directive is also aimed at improving the energy efficiency of water utilities through measures such as laying down provisions on investigating leakages in the water distribution networks and communicating information about them.

New Directive will enter into force in the summer

The European Commission proposed a revision of the Drinking Water Directive at the beginning of February 2018. Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on the content on the Directive before Christmas during Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU. Parliament intends to adopt the political agreement in mid-February. The Directive will enter into force in July 2020 at the earliest. The EU Member States will then have two years to transpose the provisions of the Directive into national law. 

Inquiries

Jarkko Rapala, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 315, firstname.lastname@stm.fi 

Jaakko Kuisma, Senior Specialist, Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union, tel. +32 473 532 399, firstname.lastname@formin.fi 

Building materials: Kaisa Kauko, Senior Engineer, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 121, firstname.lastname@ym.fi and 
Mikko Koskela, Legal Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 051, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Protection of waters and the Water Framework Directive: Juhani Gustafsson, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 338, firstname.lastname@ym.fi 

Water services: Katri Vasama, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 50 595 5317, firstname.lastname@mmm.fi 

European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) press@echa.europa.eu