Quality of drinking water

Table of Contents:

Quality of drinking water

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Quality of drinking water


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Water protection and management

Quality of drinking water

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption [See amending act(s)].


The Directive is intended to protect human health by laying down healthiness and purity requirements which must be met by drinking water within the European Union (EU).

Drinking water

The Directive applies to all water intended for human consumption apart from natural mineral waters and waters which are medicinal products.

General obligations

Member States shall ensure that such drinking water:

  • does not contain any concentration of micro-organisms, parasites or any other substance which constitutes a potential human health risk;
  • meets the minimum requirements (microbiological and chemical parameters and those relating to radioactivity) laid down by the Directive.

They will take any other action needed in order to guarantee the healthiness and purity of water intended for human consumption.

Quality standards

Member States shall lay down the parametric values corresponding at least to the values set out in the Directive. Where parameters are not set out in the Directive limit values must be laid down by the Member States if necessary to protect health.


The Directive requires Member States to regularly monitor the quality of water intended for human consumption by using the methods of analysis specified in the Directive, or equivalent methods. For this purpose they shall determine the sampling points and draw up monitoring programmes.

Corrective action and restrictions on use

Where the parametric values are not attained the Member States concerned shall ensure that the corrective action needed is taken as quickly as possible in order to restore water quality.

Regardless of compliance, or otherwise, with the parametric values, Member States shall prohibit the distribution of drinking water or shall restrict its use and shall take any action needed where that water constitutes a potential human health hazard. Consumers shall be informed of any such action.


The Directive shall provide the Member States with scope to provide for exemptions from the parametric values up to a maximum value, provided that:

  • the exemption does not constitute a human health hazard;
  • there is no other reasonable means of maintaining the distribution of drinking water in the area concerned;
  • the exemption must be as restricted in time as possible and not exceed three years (it being possible to renew the exemption for two further three-year periods).

Any exemption granted must be accompanied by a detailed justification except if the Member State concerned feels that failure to meet the limit value is not serious and may be quickly remedied. Water sold in bottles or containers may not be exempted.

Any Member State granting an exemption must inform the following thereof:

  • the population affected;
  • the Commission within a two-month period if the exemption covers the distribution of more than 1000 m³ per day on average, or supplies for more than 5000 persons.

Quality guarantees on the processes, equipment and materials

Neither the materials or substances used in new installations for preparing and distributing drinking water may not continue to be present in drinking water beyond a strictly necessary level.


At least every five years the Commission shall re-examine the parameters laid down by the Directive in the light of scientific and technical progress. It will be assisted in that process by a Committee comprising representatives of the Member States.

Information and reports

Every three years Member States shall publish a report on the quality of drinking water for its consumers. On the basis of those reports the Commission will, every three years, draw up a summary report on the quality of the water intended for human consumption within the Community.

Deadline for compliance

Within five years at the latest Member States shall take any action needed in order to guarantee that water quality complies with the Directive. In exceptional cases that period may be extended provided that it does not exceed three years.


Directive 98/83/EC replaces Directive 80/778/EEC from 25 December 2003.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 98/83/EC



OJ L 330 of 05.12.1998

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009


OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 98/83/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated versionis for reference only.

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