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EU Commission: new water service rules. “Less bottles, drink tap water”

(Brussels) “Lower consumption of bottled water may help households in Europe to save over 600 million euros a year”. Moreover, “with improved confidence in tap water, citizens can also contribute to reducing plastic waste from bottled water, including marine litter. Plastic bottles are one of the most common single use plastic items found on European beaches”, stated the EU Commission in submitting update of the EU law on access to drinking water. This legislative proposal responds to the Citizens’ Initiative, “Right2Water”, that gathered 1.6 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans. Most people living in the EU already enjoy very good access to high quality drinking water, especially compared to some other regions in the world, but the different areas of Europe cannot enjoy the same level of safety or the same costs. “The right to access essential services of good quality, including water, is one of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights – says the Commission – unanimously endorsed by Heads of State or Government at the Gothenburg summit. The legislative proposal aims to guarantee this right, and thereby responds to the initiative, Right2Water”, meant to grant “better access to safe drinking water for all European citizens”.

The legislative proposal submitted to Parliament and EU Council “ensures that water suppliers provide consumers with clearer information on water consumption, on the cost structure as well as on the price per litre allowing a comparison with the price of bottled water”. This will be contributing to the environmental goals of reducing unnecessary plastic use and limiting the EU’s carbon footprint, as well as to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. First Vice-President of the Commission 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”. On the other hand, this proposal is being opposed by manufacturers of bottled water.

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”. The rules which the Commission proposes to update “will improve water quality and safety by adding new and emerging substances to the list of criteria for determining water safety (such as legionella and chlorate). These additions take account of the latest scientific knowledge and recommendations of the World Health Organisation”. The Commission will also “accelerate work on standardisation to ensure that construction products in the water sector across the EU’s internal market, such as pipes and tanks, do not pollute drinking water”.

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