The World Health Organization published the 4th edition of its Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality at the International Water Week in Singapore on 4 July.
The report is designed to provide advice to both developed and developing countries and provides the background to European and UK drinking water standards.
The guidelines firmly express the importance of a risk-based approach to the protection of drinking water quality through the use of drinking water safety plans. Through the drive of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, and the implementation by water companies, the UK has fully embraced this concept.
The UK – through its inclusion of water safety plans within drinking water quality regulations – is seen as leading edge in Europe and worldwide.
The release of the 4th edition of the guidelines is too late to influence DG Environment’s review of the European Drinking Water Directive. While the Drinking Water Directive does not provide for water safety plans directly, DG Environment did, in its decision not to revise the current document, provide an opportunity to introduce water safety plans for small water supplies.
WHO launched two companion documents at the same time, giving more detail and guidance on household water treatment options and on pharmaceuticals in drinking water.
The three comprehensive WHO documents are widely accepted by the water industry. The guidance on pharmaceuticals is particularly important and timely as impacts of the increasing use of medicinal products by society on the quality of drinking waters are being assessed.
WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water, Fourth Edition