Drinking Water Directive - political agreement reached
At the end of a long negotiation the European Parliament and the Council of the EU agreed on the text of a new Drinking Water Directive yesterday night in Strasbourg. On Friday the Presidency will debrief the COREPER on the outcome of the trilogue but in order to fine-tune some recitals there will be a technical meeting at the beginning of January 2020. This means that the final text will be tabled for support in the Council only at the beginning of the new year.
Parliament and Council have improved the European Commission proposal by better reflecting the World Health Organisation's recommendations in the new legislation so that drinking water stays safe and affordable. BPA will be included in the Annex I B but with the health-based value of 2.5 µg/l (instead of the proposed 0,01 µg/l) , while the other two EDCs will be on a watch list that will be adopted via a delegated act by the European Commission within one year after the entry into force of the Directive (meaning alraedy in 2021). Once a methodology to measure microplastics is developed (within three years) the Commission may include the parameter in the watch list.
The watch list will also establish guidance values for the substances on it: it is not clear on which basis the substances will be selected (hopefully the WHO recommendations and scientific development will guide the European Commission's proposal). It is a pity though that apparently there will be no authomatic review of authorisations under chemical legislation (pesticides, pharmaceuticals) or authomatic restrictions under REACH if a substance is detected with a parametric value higher than the guidance value. This would have facilitated a source-control approach to pollutants in line with the EU Treaties and with the WFD art.7.3.
On the issue of PFAS the compromise was reached on a list of 20 substances (in Annex III) under the parameter "Sum of PFAS" with a parametric value of 0.1 µg/l.
The new Directive will finally feature the establishment of a EU-wide scheme for hygienic requirements for materials in contact with drinking water: a major achievement for the protection of all European citizens' health, for ensuring that public money are spent by water operators on products that are fit-for-purpose and for the creation of a single market for these products!
The compulsory introduction of the Risk-Based Approach (currently optional) is also very important to establish the link between the Water Framework Directive (the protection of water resources) and the quality of the water at the tap (protection of public health).
On the issue of leakage the Member States will have to report their assessment to the Commission, on the basis of which the Commission will set a EU leakage avarage threshold. All countries with a higher rate than the threshold will have a couple of years to adopt an action plan to reduce their leakage rate.
The Directive will also oblige Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure access to water for vulnerable persons.
Derogations are also re-included, as well as the Indicators parameters.
From my perspective it has been a very interesting file to work on and EurEau drinking water experts have been great in sending feedbacks, comments, cost estimates of the various changes introduced at each version of the various drafts. It has been a honour to work with such great drinking water professionals and bring their knowledge to motivated and engaged policy makers!
Water matters. EU matters.