A continuous supply of clean drinking water is a basic human right. Protecting human health from adverse effects linked to drinking water quality is a top global priority, as also recognized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 6).
All around the world, requirements are placed on the treatment and distribution of drinking water so as to maintain the highest quality of the drinking water supplied to end users. The materials used in the distribution systems, which are in direct contact with the drinking water on its way from the treatment facilities to the consumers, are particularly important.
In the European Union, these general materials requirements are regulated in Article 10 of the EU Drinking Water Directive (Directive 98/83/EC) and the enforcement and monitoring process is transferred to the individual member states. National lawmakers are obliged to implement all measures required to ensure that materials and products used in drinking water treatment and distribution do not have a direct or indirect adverse effect on human health.
Unfortunately, the majority of the EU Member States currently do not coordinate their implementation efforts. The result is a multitude of different national requirements for the marketing of materials and articles contact with drinking water. As of today more than 15 different certification and test organisations within the European Union regulate licensing of products and materials suitable for use with drinking water. This has resulted in the lack of a common EU standard for human health protection.
Compliance with all test criteria in the respective member states is extremely complex and time-consuming for product manufacturers and often associated with unnecessary financial burden. In addition, Member States often deny market access to products which are lawfully marketed in other Member States, in contradiction with the mutual recognition principle as established by EU treaties. All of these aspects ultimately result in significant barriers to the free circulation within the EU of products in contact with drinking water.