Proposal for a Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption (recast)

Author (Corporate)
Series Details COM (2017) 753
Publication Date 01/02/2018
Content Type


Legislative initiative published by the European Commission on 1 February 2018, revising the Drinking Water Directive (DWD), aimed at regulating the quality of water intended for human consumption.

Further information:

Since the 1980s, the European Union (EU) has applied rules that require stringent water safety checks. In this context, Council Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption should be singled out since it was designed specifically to protect people from the adverse effects of drinking contaminated water by ensuring that it is wholesome and clean. While the Directive was appropriately implemented by Member States, its approach to monitoring quality at the point of consumption uses parameters determined many years ago. This has called for an examination of whether the Directive deals effectively with existing and emerging pressures.

The Right2Water initiative - the first ever European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) - was submitted in December 2013. In its response to the ECI, the European Commission committed to reviewing the Directive, which was included as a result to the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).  The proposal therefore directly follows up on the Right2Water initiative. The revision of the Drinking Water Directive was also put forward as part of the plan to transition to a circular economy. The assessment of the Directive showed the it is a relevant tool to ensure the high quality of the water consumed in the EU. However, it also identified several areas with room for improvement.

The proposed revision requires Member States to improve access for all people, especially for vulnerable and marginalised group who face 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. Another important change in the legislation gives the public easy, user-friendly – including online – access to information about the quality and supply of drinking water in their living area, improving confidence in tap water.

The European Commission adopted the legislative proposal on 1 February 2018. The European Parliament's plenary session adopted its negotiating position on 23 October, followed by the Council of the European Union on 5 March 2019. An informal agreement between the co-legislators on a compromise text was reached on 18 December. The Council formally endorsed it on 23 October 2020, followed by the Parliament's plenary on 15 December.

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Commentary and Analysis
Euronews, 31/01/2018: Access to water - a fundamental right?
EPRS: Briefing, March 2018: Initial Appraisal of a European Commission Impact Assessment
EPRS: At a Glance, October 2018: Revision of the Drinking Water Directive
EurActiv, 24/06/2019: ECI’s contribution on the Revision of the Drinking Water Directive in view of the Trilogues
EurActiv, 27/08/2019: Legionella pneumophila in EU drinking water directive
EPRS: Briefing, January 2021: Revision of the Drinking Water Directive

The Guardian, 01/02/2018: EU measure demands rise in public fountains to cut bottle waste
EurActiv, 01/02/2018: Leaky drinking water rules tightened by EU
EurActiv, 12/04/2019: Tap water rules no longer in deep water, but health concerns persist
EurActiv, 28/10/2019: Scientists and Commission clash over detecting Legionella risk
EurActiv, 17/12/2019: Information is key to promote tap water use, health expert says
The Brussels Times, 23/12/2019: New drinking water directive goes beyond European Citizens’ Initiative
EurActiv, 17/12/2020: Parliament seals historic first citizen-led EU law on tap water

European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Procedure File for Proposal on Quality of water intended for human consumption (Recast)
European Parliament: Legislative Train Schedule: Revision of the drinking water directive
European Commission: Press Release, 01/02/2018: Safer drinking water for all Europeans
European Commission: Memo, 01/02/2018: Safer drinking water for all Europeans: Questions and Answers
European Commission: Opening remarks of First Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Vella at the Press Conference on the Revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive, 1 February 2018
European Parliament: Headlines, 19/10/2018: Drinking water in the EU: better quality and access
European Commission: Press Release, 19/12/2019: Commission welcomes provisional agreement to improve the quality of drinking water and the access to it
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 05/02/2020: Safe and clean drinking water: Council approves provisional deal which updates quality standards
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 23/10/2020: Safe and clean drinking water: Council adopts strict minimum quality standards
European Commission: Press Release, 16/12/2020: Commission welcomes final agreement on water quality and access to drinking water

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