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

Drinking Water UN news

Imal Hashemi/Taimani Films/World Bank Child drinks water from a water-pipe.

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


MEPs backed plans on Tuesday to improve consumers’ trust in drinking water from the tap, which is much cheaper and cleaner for the environment compared to bottled water.

The legislation tightens the maximum limits for certain pollutants such as lead (to be reduced by half), harmful bacteria, and introduces new caps for certain endocrine disruptors. It also puts levels of microplastics, an emerging concern, under monitoring.

Water access

Member states should also take measures to provide universal access to clean water in the EU and improve water access in cities and public places, by setting up free fountains 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.

Right2Water

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 should identify people without access, or with limited access to water, including vulnerable and marginalised groups, and assess ways to improve their access. They should also inform them clearly about how to connect to the distribution network or about alternative means to have access to such water.

Quote

Michel Dantin (EPP, FR), rapporteur, said:

“The way we use water will define the future of humanity. Everyone should have access to clean and good quality water, and we should do our utmost to make it as affordable as possible for everyone”.

Next steps

The report was adopted with 300 votes to 98 and 274 abstentions. Parliament will enter into negotiations with Council once EU ministers have set their own position on the file.

Background

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 (link), 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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