Green light for purer European water

A new drinking water directive, approved Tuesday by the European Parliament, will give better access to higher quality tap water, and could lower consumption of bottled water.

The new rules are designed to offer high quality tap water across the EU. This is in response to the demands of over 1.8 million Europeans who signed the first-ever successful European Citizens' Initiative, "Right2Water", in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans.

To this end, member states shall ensure the free provision of water in public buildings and should encourage restaurants, canteens, and catering services to give customers water for free or for a low service fee. Member states should also take measures to improve access to water for vulnerable groups, such as refugees, nomadic communities, homeless people, and minority cultures such as the Roma and Travellers.

To enable and encourage people to drink tap water rather than bottled water, the quality of tap water will be improved by imposing stricter limits for certain pollutants, including lead.

By early 2022, the Commission will draw up and monitor a list of substances or compounds of public or scientific concern to health. These will include pharmaceuticals, endocrine-disrupting compounds, and microplastics.

The Commission shall also establish European lists indicating which substances are authorised to come into contact with drinking water.

Member states shall ensure that measures taken to implement the new standards are based on the precautionary principle and under no circumstances lead to the deterioration of the present quality of drinking water.

The directive will enter into force 12 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Within two years of passing into law, member states shall make the necessary changes to comply with the directive.

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