Drinking Water Directive secures clean and safe water but more could have been done to improve access to water
Aqua Publica Europea, the European Association of Public Water Operators welcomes the formal adoption of the Drinking Water Directive. With this new text, citizens will continue to enjoy clean and safe water no matter where they are in Europe. They will also have access to more information, thus fostering more confidence in tap water. However, we believe more could have been done by the EU.
Public water operators members of Aqua Publica Europea commit in their daily mission to provide high quality drinking water to over 70 million people in Europe. Therefore, we welcome the new DWD’s comprehensive rules for the supply of clean and safe drinking water. With the risk-based approach, the text addresses water management from the assessment of risks to their effective management by prioritising preventive measures to protect water. Furthermore, the new directive provides for a closer connection with the Water Framework Directive, and in particular upstream control of water bodies, thus moving towards a more integrated approach of water resources at river basin level.
Considering the specificities of water, a common good and natural monopoly, transparency is critical and people have the right to access relevant information on the quality of water and on the management of water services. The Annex IV outlines strong transparency provisions, such as the inclusion of the ownership structure in the requirements.
The inclusion of the improvement of access to water as a clear objective of the Directive marks progress to respond to citizens’ calls, as expressed in the European Citizens Initiative ‘Right2Water’. However, the EU could have gone further on access to water, in line with the EU Pillars of Social Rights. Provisions of the article 13 lower the European Commission’s original ambitions by leaving large discretionary powers to Member States, hence missing the opportunity to create a uniformly improved framework and provide certainty to people throughout the EU.
We regret weakened provisions on the promotion of tap water, a healthy, economic and ecological option that also helps fulfil EU’s ambitions on climate and environment. Aqua Publica Europea’s members remain committed and many best practices and efforts by the public water sector can be found in our publication ‘Promoting tap water in Europe’.
Aqua Publica Europea President, Bernard Van Nuffel, said:
“Because water is life, public water operators will continue to supply water of the highest quality, in accordance with requirements, whilst making it a priority to find the most sustainable, fair and cost-efficient solutions for citizens. We also go beyond these responsibilities by advocating for better access to water for all and promoting tap water as the most responsible drinking option. We invite all citizens and stakeholders to join us in this movement.”
In parallel, the European Parliament plenary is voting on a Motion for a Resolution on the implementation of water legislation. We strongly support the call for better implementation of existing laws and key principles, especially regarding the importance of addressing pollution at source first, ensuring fair contribution of all users, and the need to prioritise water for drinking purposes. Furthermore, we emphasise the need to refrain from promoting public-private partnerships to bridge financial gaps, as they present serious shortcomings, as highlighted by the European Court of Auditors, and risk conflicting with the ECI Right2Water’s call for the end of liberalisation of water.