MEPs have voted to improve drinking water quality standards across the EU by tightening regulations on contaminants and promoting “universal access” to clean tap water.
The maximum allowed levels of lead in tap water are to be halved, while new caps will be introduced for quantities of endocrine disruptors and other pollutants. The new drinking water quality standards will also allow for monitoring of the levels of microplastics in water, which has become an increasingly pressing concern in recent years.
In addition to improving drinking water quality standards, the new rules include a clause to boost transparency and improve consumer access to up-to-date information about municipal water supplies.
The stated aims of EU water policy are:
- To ensure high drinking water quality standards based on the latest scientific evidence;
- To monitor, assess and enforce a high standard of drinking water quality;
- To provide consumers with adequate and timely information; and
- To contribute to broader water and health policies across the EU.
MEPs suggested Member States encourage their citizens to drink more tap water for financial and environmental reasons; proposed measures included installing free water fountains in public places and providing free tap water in restaurants.
European Commission figures show making drinking water quality standards more palatable could reduce consumption of bottled water by up to 17 per cent: on average EU citizens currently consume 106 litres of bottled water per year; and public consultations have shown Europeans feel insecure about the quality of tap water in other Member States.
The European citizens’ initiative Right2Water, which lobbies the EU to implement higher drinking water quality standards and improve access to clean water and sanitation, collected more than 1.8 million signatures from petitioners across Europe supporting its campaign. The campaign states that 1 million people in Europe do not have ready access to safe, clean drinking water; and that 8 million cannot access sanitation.
The new rules will be negotiated with the European Council and Commission before entering into force.