EU Drinking Water Directive based on advice from KWR

KWR has produced an extensive advisory study on the revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive. KWR acted under the banner of WHO Europe and at the invitation of the European Commission. On 31 January, the European Commission published the draft for the revised directive.

Under the banner of the World Health Organization (WHO), KWR has published a study for the European Commission on the revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive. The WHO report focuses on approaching risks from source to tap. This is worked out in recommendations for a risk analysis of the water abstraction area, water treatment, water distribution and indoor water installations. The report’s recommendations also concern operational monitoring with the aim of assuring control measures, and water quality monitoring.

Measures against pathogens

The WHO report finds that the microbial safety of drinking water must be improved. This refers specifically to protecting European citizens against Legionella, viruses and protozoa. These pathogens represent a measurable health burden via drinking water (installations) in the EU. Regarding the control of Legionella growth in hot water installations in (risk) buildings, the report recommends applying specific standards and control measures. The control of viruses and protozoa mainly involves drinking water produced from surface water or vulnerable groundwater abstraction areas. For these systems, the WHO report recommends the conduct of a simple risk analysis. In this way one can determine whether the treatment process produces safe drinking water from the source. Operational monitoring can in turn control the effectiveness of the treatment process. Both recommendations have already been incorporated into the Dutch Decree on Water Quality.

Chemical parameters

The chemical parameters for water quality must also be updated. The WHO report recommends that:

  • Six parameters be added to the list of chemical water quality parameters. In this context, KWR examined the health relevance of the parameters, as well as the general occurrence of the chemical substances in the EU. This concerns the following: the disinfection by-products chlorite, chlorate and haloacetic acids; microcystin and uranium, which can be present due to natural processes; and PFOS and PFOA, which are made and used by humans.
  • Five parameters be removed from the list, because of their properties and limited or strongly reduced occurrence in (drinking) water in the EU. This concerns the following: benzine, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 1,2-dichloroethane and cyanide.
  • The parameter values for antimony, boron and selenium be lowered, on the basis of recent information about their relevance to health.

Risk analysis

Depending on local circumstances, the occurrence of these chemical substances in the source will differ.  This is why conducting the risk analysis in the water abstraction area is also of key importance; the analysis results will indicate whether specific substances are locally relevant and whether they should be detected in the measurement programme.

Extra precautionary parameters

The European Commission has not precisely incorporated each and every recommendation in its proposal for the new directive. For precautionary reasons, it has for example added extra parameters such as bisphenol A and nonylphenol.

Input until 29 March

The Drinking Water Directive was published for commentary on 31 January; it is available here. Citizens and stakeholders have the opportunity until 29 March to express their views on the proposal.