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Drinking Water Directive (EU)

Posted by: Katie Hill
13th Sep 2011
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Drinking Water Directive (EU)

The Drinking Water Directive (DWD) sets quality standards for drinking water quality at the tap (microbiological, chemical and organoleptic parameters). The overall objective is to protect the health of the consumers in the European Union and to make sure the water is wholesome and clean. It obliges Member States to regularly monitor drinking water quality and to provide to consumers adequate and up-to-date information on their drinking water quality.

To make sure drinking water everywhere in the EU is healthy, clean and tasty, the Drinking Water Directive sets standards for the most common substances (parameters) that can be found in drinking water. In the DWD a total of 48 microbiological and chemical parameters must be monitored and tested regularly. In principle WHO guidelines for drinking water are used as a basis for the standards in the Drinking Water Directive.

Member States may, for a limited time deviate from chemical quality standards specified in annex I. This process is called "derogation". A derogation can be granted, provided it does not constitute a potential danger to human health and provided that the supply of water intended for human consumption in the area concerned cannot be maintained by any other reasonable means.

While translating the Drinking Water Directive into their own national legislation, the Member States of the European Union can include additional requirements e.g. regulate additional substances that are relevant within their territory or set higher standards. But Member States are not allowed to set lower standards as the level of protection of human health should be the same within the whole EU. Complementing the regular information to consumers, drinking water quality has to be reported to the European Commission every three years; the scope of reporting is set out in Commission Decision 95/337/EEC. Using the information it receives, the Commission assesses the results of water quality monitoring against the standards in the Drinking Water Directive. After each reporting cycle the Commission produces a report summarising the quality of drinking water and its improvement at a European level.

Further information on the Drinking Water Directive is available here.

A copy of the directive is available here.