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Drinking water is our most valuable food. Its cleanliness is crucial for our health and access to hygienic drinking water is a fundamental human right. However, we should by no means assume that drinkable water is available as a matter of course. On the contrary, it is something to which we should pay significant attention. We need to keep in mind that it requires a great deal of scientific, technological, regulatory and operational effort ensure that people have access to high-quality water.
Access to safe drinking water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection. Diseases related to contamination of drinking water constitute a major burden on human health. Interventions to improve the quality of drinking water provide significant benefits to health.
In Stockholm, in 1999, it was agreed that future guidelines for drinking water, wastewater and recreational water should integrate assessment of risk, risk management options and exposure control elements within a single framework with embedded quality targets (see WHO guidelines for drinking water quality). Following this approach, the assessment of risk is not a goal in its own right, but rather a basis for decision making. The framework for safe drinking water and the recommended approach for regulations, policies and programmes are based on this overall framework, known as the Stockholm Framework.
The great majority of evident water-related health problems are the result of microbial (bacterial, viral, protozoan or other biological) contamination. Nevertheless, an appreciable number of serious health concerns may occur as a result of the chemical contamination of drinking water. It is very important, that the potential health consequences of microbial contamination are permanently controlled and never be compromised.
A preventive integrated management approach with collaboration of all relevant agencies is the preferred approach to ensuring drinking water safety. Drinking water suppliers are at all times responsible for the quality and safety of the water that they produce. Surveillance of drinking water quality can be defined as “the continuous and vigilant public health assessment and review of the safety and acceptability of drinking water supplies” (WHO, 1976).
The actual Directive 98/83/EC sets the legal framework to protect human health from any contamination of water intended for human consumption by ensuring that it is wholesome and clean. Member states should take measures to ensure that water intended for human consumption is free from any microorganisms, parasites and substances which might be a danger for human health.
In addition, the European citizens' initiative on the right to water identified the problem that some people do not have access to water intended for human consumption although this is a commitment according to Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN Agenda 2030.
Safe water intended for human consumption needs to lack any harmful microorganisms and substances. Simultaneously, it has to contain certain amounts of natural minerals and essential elements (e.g. calcium and magnesium). This is because in the long-term, consuming demineralized water or water with only few essential elements might compromise human health. Furthermore, a certain amount of these minerals ensures the water is neither aggressive nor corrosive and improves its taste.
European Drinking Water (EDW) is an alliance of European trade associations (see "Member associations") representing industries which are involved with supply products or materials that are used in drinking water applications and connected to municipal drinking water supplies within the European Union (EU). The industry alliance has also developed industry positions on regulation and hygienic requirements for products in contact with drinking water.
The most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of drinking water supplies is the use of a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach incorporated in a Water Safety Plan (WSP). It applies to all steps of a water supply including the distribution system. Its usual to develop an integrated WSP applying to all components, from catchment through treatment and distribution. A first guide on how to achieve and verify these outcomes is presented by modules identified in the Water Safety Plan Manual.
|European Drinking Water: deals with the supply of products and materials which are used in the drinking water application.|
|United Nations - Sustainable Development Goals: they deal with the global challenges, e.g. with the access to safe drinking water.|
|Global Water Forum: it sensitizes for water supply problems and promotes water management on a political and social level.|
The interrelationships between water quality, health and the well-being of users require that all parties involved have a specific responsibility for aspects of hygiene in specifying the requirements for potable water installations in buildings.
This guidebook gives an overview about the fundamentals of hygiene and water quality and contains the main information on the design, installation, start-up, use, operation and maintenance of potable water installations in buildings. It gives also suggestions for the practical work (maintenance, effects on microbiology, potential causes and measures in practical work, checklists). It is a useful guide for hygienic planning of water piping systems inside buildings. All requirements described in this guidebook apply equally to existing buildings, particularly in the case of conversions, extensions and demolition.