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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Drinking water — essential quality standards

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Drinking water — essential quality standards


Directive 98/83/EC — quality of water intended for human consumption



  • It sets standards for drinking water.
  • It aims to protect public health from the adverse effect of any contamination by ensuring water for human consumption* is wholesome and clean.


  • EU countries must:
    • take the necessary measures to ensure the water does not contain concentrations of microorganisms, parasites or harmful substances that could be a danger to human health, and meets minimum microbiological and chemical standards;
    • ensure the standards are met when the water comes out of a tap or tanker;
    • monitor the water regularly at agreed sampling points in order to check that the microbiological, chemical and indicator parameter values are met;
    • investigate immediately when the standards are not met and take the necessary corrective action;
    • ban or restrict a water supply if it is considered to be a potential threat to public health;
    • inform the public when corrective action is taken;
    • publish a report every 3 years on drinking water quality. This information for the public is sent to the European Commission.
  • The Commission:
    • publishes every 3 years a report synthesising national data on the quality of drinking water;
    • reviews every 5 years the microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters and the monitoring specifications, taking account of scientific and technological progress. It may propose that these be adjusted.
  • The directive does not apply to natural mineral waters or waters which are considered to be medicinal products.
  • EU countries may exempt from their legislation private, non-commercial water supply, serving fewer than 50 people.
  • In 2015, the Commission adopted Directive (EU) 2015/1787 introducing new EU rules to improve monitoring of drinking water. The directive allows EU countries greater flexibility as to how drinking water is monitored across the EU and is a response to EU citizens’ calls for laws ensuring a better, fair and comprehensive water supply (see background section below).


It entered into force on 25 December 1998. EU countries had to incorporate it in national law by 25 December 2000.


In early 2014, the first European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), after a Right2Water campaign, called for EU legislation to guarantee the right to water and sanitation.

The ECI was introduced by Article 11(4) of the Treaty on European Union. It allows the public to ask the Commission to act in areas of its responsibility, provided the petition secures at least 1 million signatures in at least 7 EU countries.

For more information, see:


* Water for human consumption: water in its original state or after treatment intended for drinking, cooking, preparing food or other domestic purposes. It may be supplied from a tap, tanker, bottle or container.


Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption (OJ L 330, 5.12.1998, pp. 32-54)

Successive amendments to Directive 98/83/EC have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 06.06.2016