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Training Package on EU Water Legislation

Module 6: Water quality sector specific legislation

Other water quality sector specific legislation: Water intended for human consumption

Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption imposes on Member States a general duty to ensure that water intended for human consumption is wholesome and clean by seeing to it that it is free from any micro-organisms, parasites and other substances constituting a potential danger to human health (Article 4(1)). It applies neither to natural mineral waters nor to medicinal products (Article 3(1)). Member States set quality objectives for a number of parameters which may not be less stringent than those mentioned by the Directive 98/83/EC (Article 5): maximum concentration of 10 micrograms of lead per litre, microbiological parameters and maximum concentrations in a number of heavy metals and other substances such as arsenic, benzene, nitrates, nitrites, and pesticides (Annex I).

Directive 98/83/EC defines “points of compliance”, i.e. those points where compliance with the quality standards must be checked. In case of water supplied from a distribution network, this is the actual taps that are normally used for human consumption, but Member States are deemed to have fulfilled their obligations where non-compliance with the parametric values is due to the domestic distribution system inside the premises or its maintenance. However, in premises and establishment where water is supplied to the public, they must take measures so as to reduce or eliminate the risk of non-compliance and consumers concerned must be duly informed and advised (Article 6). Regular monitoring must be carried out, samples are taken and the efficiency of any treatments applied is verified, with monitoring programmes (Article 7).

In the case of failure to meet the parametric values, an investigation is carried out and the distribution of waters constituting a potential danger to human health is prohibited or restricted, except where competent authorities consider the non-compliance with the parametric value to be trivial (Article 8).

The cost of implementation of Directive 98/83/EC was assessed as high as 50 billion euros, at least 80 % of which to be incurred in the renovation of water conduits in private networks, the 20 remaining percent being the costs of rehabilitating the public distribution network.


Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)