Ensuring all citizens have access to safe drinking water has been a priority for the EU for decades. It’s crucial for public health and wellbeing, and shortages or contamination can lead to serious social, health and economic problems. The EU believes that high quality drinking water should be guaranteed for all consumers, which is why it’s one of the main principles included in the European Pillar of Social Rights.
It’s strongly agreed that all consumers should have access to both safe water and reliable information about its supply. In light of this, the commission has announced its plans to revise legislation to improve the Drinking Water Directive. To support this cause, the European Citizens’ Initiative have gather over 1.6 million signatures as part of the “Right2Water” campaign, which was introduced to improve access for all Europeans.
Thanks to current legislation, the majority of EU citizens already have very good access to high quality drinking water. The last 30 years of legislation have seen massive improvements and, when compared to some other regions in the world, EU policies ensure that most people living in Europe enjoy water that’s safe for human consumption and can be accessed throughout their lives.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Citizens have made their voice loud and clear through the European Citizens’ Initiative, calling for action to have a guaranteed access to safe drinking water. We have heard and heeded their call and carried out a thorough analysis of our existing legislation. 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.”
The aim of the proposed changed to the legislation are to both preserve and improve the current standards we’re seeing. Ensuring a high level of health protection is crucial, and the EU strives towards making sure that water quality is controlled and monitored based on the latest scientific evidence.
Among the changes are rules that will require all member states to improve access for all their citizens, and especially for vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, who currently have more limited access than the general population. This includes providing equipment in public places, launching new campaigns about water quality for citizens and encouraging more public buildings to offer free drinking water to visitors. It’s been predicted that these measures would reduce the potential health risks associated with drinking water from 4% to less than 1%.
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for growth, jobs, investment and competitiveness said: “With this proposal we facilitate the transition to a circular economy, helping Member States manage drinking water in a resource-efficient manner. It implies reduction of energy use and unnecessary water loss. Thanks to increased transparency it will also empower consumers and push them towards more sustainable choices, for example using tap water.”
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