New European Drinking Water Directive (EU)

The EU adopted a recast Directive (EU) 2020/2184 on drinking water in December 2020, and the document entered into force in January 2021. EU member states had until 12 January 2023 to transpose this document in national law and comply with its provisions. The 1998 Directive is repealed from 13 January 2023. As of currently, not all EU member states have updated their domestic law.

The new Drinking Water Directive is here.

Key features of the revised Directive are:

  • reinforced water quality standards, in line or, in some cases, more stringent than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations
  • tackling emerging pollutants, such as endocrine disruptors and PFAs, as well as microplastics
  • a preventive approach favouring actions to reduce pollution at source by introducing the risk-based approach
  • measures to ensure better access to water, particularly for vulnerable and marginalised groups
  • measures to promote tap water, including in public spaces and restaurants, to reduce (plastic) bottle consumption
  • harmonisation of the quality standards for materials and products in contact with water
  • measures to reduce water leakages and to increase transparency of the sector

The EU also adopted the first watch list on 19 January 2022. This document is here. This means that drinking water across the EU will have to be monitored more closely for the potential presence of two endocrine disrupting compounds (beta-estradiol and nonylphenol) throughout the whole water supply chain. Endocrine disrupting compounds are a mixed group of chemicals of varying structure that can interfere with physiological and biochemical processes in the human body.

In justified circumstances, EU member states may provide for derogations. this means they will set a less stringent value than the parametric value set out in Part B of Annex I of the 2020 document, up to a maximum value to be determined by them. Such derogations should not constitute a potential danger to human health and the supply of water intended for human consumption in the area concerned cannot be maintained by any other reasonable means.

The Drinking Water Directive is not a document that is retained in Northern Ireland under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.

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