Plans to improve quality of tap water and cut plastic litter: deal with Council 

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The draft legislation aims to improve consumers’ trust in tap water, which is much cheaper and cleaner for the environment than bottled water.

The draft rules, informally agreed between MEPs and the Finnish Presidency of the Council on Wednesday, will tighten the maximum limits for certain pollutants such as lead, 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.

“Twenty years after the first Drinking Water Directive came into force, it was about time to update and tighten the threshold values for certain contaminants, such as lead. For the European Parliament it was of utmost importance that the new directive makes our drinking water even safer and takes into account emerging pollutants. I therefore welcome that the compromise reached tonight includes provisions for microplastics and endocrine disruptors such as Bisphenol A in the Directive” said lead MEP Christophe Hansen (EPP, LU) on Wednesday.

Access to water

The text also refers to the "Right2Water" citizens initiative and says that Member States should tackle the issue of access to water at national level. The text also improves consumer access to online information about the quality and pricing of tap water.

This should be done by setting up indoors and outdoors equipment in public spaces, and actions aimed at promoting the use of tap water, such as encouraging the free provision of water in public buildings of for free or for a low service fee, for customers in restaurants, canteens, and catering services.

Member States should also take measures to improve access to water for vulnerable groups, such as refugees, nomadic communities, homeless people and minority cultures such as Roma and Travellers. Possible measures could include the provision of alternative supply systems, water via tankers, and ensuring the necessary infrastructure for camps, says the text.

Next steps

The informal agreement will have to be approved by the Environment committee and a plenary vote in Parliament, as well as in the Council of Ministers.

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.