This Thursday, the 1st of February 2018, the European Commission has published its proposal for a revision of Directive 98/83/EC (the “Drinking Water Directive”). We welcome this proposal, which places water utilities at the centre of a more holistic approach to managing the provision of drinking water services.
Safe drinking water is essential for public health and well-being, and water contamination or shortages can have serious social and economic costs. This proposal will help increase consumers’ trust in the quality of tap water and responds to the first-ever successful European Citizens’ Initiative, “Right2Water“, that gathered 1.9 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans.
The new rules will require Member States to improve access for all people, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups who currently have difficult access to drinking water. In practice, that means setting up equipment for access to drinking water in public spaces, launching campaigns to inform citizens about the quality of their water and encouraging administrations and public buildings to provide access to drinking water.
While we welcome the directive, we like to stress that integrated planning and management, covering the whole water chain, is a key condition to protect water resources. Therefore the European Commission also needs to address Sanitation as an issue that is intrinsically linked. Many more people in Europe lack access to Sanitation and much of the wastewater in Europe still goes untreated into rivers and waterflows, risking pollution of drinking water sources and posing health risks.
Access to drinking water is a human right that must be respected and promoted. By requesting Member States to map access to water and promote it through equipment in public spaces, by launching specific communication campaigns and by encouraging the free provision of tap water in restaurants, canteens and other catering services, this proposal is a resolute move in the right direction. Lower consumption of bottled water can also contribute to reducing plastic waste from bottled water, including marine litter, but more needs to be done in legislative action to stop plastic pollution of our waters and plastic soup in our oceans.
The new directive gives a clear response to the first “Right2Water” demand: guaranteeing clean water to all inhabitants in Europe, and in that sense contributes to SDG 6, but it does not address the third demand: more efforts to achieve universal – global access to water and sanitation. European action and measures in this direction would be welcomed with more enthousiasm. EuSAIN will continue working and campaigning to achieve SDG 6 and realize the human rights to water and sanitation for all!