The Directive was first published in 1998 and since then there have been three amended versions from 2003, 2009 and 2015. Over 20 years have passed since the first Directive and many things have changed since then regarding drinking water contamination. Four areas were considered as needing revision:
• The list of parameters
• The use of the risk-based approach
• Increased transparency giving consumers access to up-to-date information
• Greater insight into materials in contact with drinking water and analysis of migration
Rather than issue another amended version of the Directive, it was decided to recast a new version.
Some parameters are no longer considered to be a problem in today’s water supplies, such as benzene, mercury and cyanide and these have been omitted from the listings.
Some parameters have been added, such as polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are considered as increasing pollutants (these are used widely in fire-fighting foams). Uranium has been added (occurring naturally or as a contaminant). Clearer indications of analytical methods and thresholds for migration of pipework materials into water (vinyl chloride, epichlorohydrin and acrylamides) have been established. The full list of new additions is about to be published.
Rather than analyse annually a large list of parameters, the list may be made smaller by considering the individual risks at the location of water extraction. This was first described in the 2015 amendment and briefly is as follows:
• Analytical results should be review over the previous 3 years
• If the parameter measured is consistently less than 30% of the threshold during this time, it may be omitted
• If the parameter measured is consistently less than 60% of the threshold, the frequency of analysis may be reduced
Tables in the New Directive
There are three Tables in the new Directive, A, B and C. The latter is new and intended to provide more information for the consumer:
• Table A, microbiological parameters
• Table B, physico/chemical parameters
• Table C, indicator parameters
The indicator parameters are not considered harmful, such as colour, taste, conductivity and turbidity but are considered useful information for the consumer. Interestingly, HPCs and coliforms have been included in this table and removed from Table A.
Exemptions to the Directive
Bottled mineral waters are exempt from this Directive and considered under Directive 2009/54/EC. Spring water, on the other hand, is covered partly by the 2009 Directive and partly by the new Drinking Water Directive. The requirement from the 2009 Directive is that microbiological analyses for spring water must be the same as those for mineral water and with the same thresholds. Other aspects are covered by the new Drinking Water Directive.
At the point of bottling, mineral water, spring water and drinking water are considered as foodstuffs under Regulation 178/2002 and follow the requirements of food law.
Bottling plants that have their own private water supply (borehole, spring) and use it for bottling water for sale are exempt from the provisions of the Directive, provided they follow a HACCP plan under the relevant legislation on food.