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  • Improving quality of tap water to reduce use of plastic bottles and save households over €600m per year 
  • Increase access to water in public spaces and restaurants 
  • Member states must “promote access to water for all” 

MEPs backed plans to improve consumers’ trust in tap water, which is much cheaper and cleaner for the environment than bottled water, on Thursday.

MEPs propose to tighten the maximum limits for certain pollutants such as lead (to be reduced by half), harmful bacteria, and introduce new caps for most polluting substances found in tap water. The report also backs the principle of water access for all in the EU.

The vote on this report, adopted by show of hands, closes Parliament’s first reading, which reached its position in October. However, EU ministers have not reached their position in time to open negotiations before the end of the legislative term. Negotiations will therefore start in the new parliamentary term, following European elections in May.

ʽʽWith a clear timetable, the European Parliament has shown itself to be up to the expectations of European citizens, ready to negotiate the text as early as November in order to reach an inter-institutional agreement before the end of the mandate. Despite all the efforts of the Romanian Presidency to make up for the delay in the Council, and the European Parliament presenting a general approach at the Council of Ministers on 5 March 2019, there is no longer time for manoeuvre to initiate inter-institutional negotiations, due to the European elections next May” said Michel Dantin (EPP,FR) on Wednesday.

Access to water

Member states should also take measures to provide universal access to clean water in the EU and improve water access in cities and public places, by setting up free fountains where technically feasible and proportionate. They should also encourage tap water to be provided in restaurants, canteens and catering services for free or for a low service fee.

Background

According to the European Commission, lower consumption of bottled water could help EU households save more than €600 million per year. If confidence in tap water improves, 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.