Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

Drinking water 2018

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament. This series illustrates reconstruction work carried out by the European Union in the city of Mostar. Channelling of drinking water. © European Communities , 1996 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service.

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

EU countries should promote universal access to clean water for all in the EU, said the Environment Committee on Monday.

The legislation tightens the maximum limits for certain pollutants such as lead (to be reduced by half), PFAS, harmful bacteria, and introduces new caps for endocrine disruptors Bisphenol A and Beta-estradiol (50-25-2). It also monitors levels of microplastics, an emerging concern.

Water access

Member states should also take measures to improve water access, such as setting up free fountains in cities and public places, where technically feasible and proportionate. They should also encourage tap water to be provided in restaurants, canteens and catering services for free or for a low service fee.


MEPs reiterate, following-up on their resolution on the citizens’ initiative Right2Water, that member states should focus on the needs of vulnerable groups in society. They shall identify people without access, or with limited access to water, including vulnerable and marginalised groups, and assess ways to improve their access, informing them clearly about how to connect to the distribution network or about alternative means to have access to such water.


Michel Dantin (EPP, FR), rapporteur, said: “I am pleased that the Environment Committee has adopted a clear position proposing a pragmatic and realistic response to the demands of European citizens, in particular the Right2Water initiative., It would improve access to water, improve the quality and performance of water distribution networks in Europe, and manage the risks of contaminants in upstream water, while limiting the impact on water prices”.

Next steps

The full House is to vote on the report during its 22-25 October plenary session in Strasbourg.


The plans aim to increase citizens’ confidence in the water supply and increase the use of tap water for drinking, which could contribute to reducing plastic usage and litter.

According to the European Commission, lower consumption of bottled water could help EU households save more than €600 million per year. If confidence in tap water improves, citizens can also contribute to reducing plastic waste from bottled water, including marine litter. Plastic bottles are one of the most common single use plastic items found on European beaches. With the update of the Drinking Water Directive, the Commission takes an important legislative step towards implementing the EU Plastics Strategy presented on 16 January 2018.

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