EU seeks to give millions access to safer drinking water

The European Union wants to give millions of people across Europe better access to safer tap water. Better management of drinking water would avoid unnecessary loss of water, reduce plastic waste and contribute to lowering the CO2 footprint.

The European Union has vowed to give millions of people in the 28-nation bloc better access to safe drinking water and clearer information on its cost.

The new legislative proposal responds to the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative, Right2Water, which gathered 1.6 million signatures.

The proposal also seeks to ensure that water suppliers provide clearer information on water consumption, on the cost structure and on the price per litre, allowing a comparison with the price of bottled water.

In turn, it could contribute to the environmental goals of reducing unnecessary plastic use and limiting the EU’s carbon footprint, according to a statement from the European Commission.

First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, commented: “Citizens have made their voice loud and clear through the European Citizens’ Initiative. Today we are therefore proposing to modernise our EU law, improving the quality of drinking water and increasing the access of citizens where it matters most. Together we can and must protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Most people living in the EU already enjoy very good access to high quality drinking water, according to the statement. However, the Commission wants to make sure that this high quality is preserved in the long run.

The rules the Commission proposes to update will improve water quality and safety by adding new substances to the list of criteria for determining water safety, such as legionella and chlorate. Estimates suggest that the new measures would reduce potential health risks associated with drinking water from 4 per cent to below 1 per cent, thus improving confidence in tap water.

Lower consumption of bottled water could help households in Europe save more than 600 million euros per year, according to the statement. Improved confidence in tap water would also contribute to reducing plastic waste from bottled water and contribute to lowering the CO2 footprint.

Photo credit: Thad Zajdowicz/ CC0 1.0

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