Better information to be available on water quality and consumption
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of the Environment: The revised EU Drinking Water Directive has been implemented in Finnish national legislation through statutory amendments that took effect on 12 January 2023. These amendments concern a wide range of laws and regulations. The main goal of the reform is to safeguard the quality of water intended for human consumption and to provide more information on water quality.
People will be better informed about their water consumption and water quality. Utilities supplying water for human consumption are now required to inform their customers of water consumption and prices annually with no separate request from the customer. Customers such as condominium housing companies must pass this information on to the end users of household water.
Details of the quality of water for human consumption will be published through the Vesi.fi online portal. Water quality information will accumulate on this website as new studies of domestic water quality are completed. The annual number of tests will vary according to the volume of water supplied by a utility.
A reform that improves risk assessment and management
One important way to promote better quality household water is through detailed assessment and management of risks. Risk factors that affect quality are monitored in the raw water that is collected to make household water, in the various stages of the water supply chain, and in water that eventually comes out of the tap at home. The reform also imposes specific requirements for self-monitoring by utilities that supply domestic water.
Under a new requirement, the water systems of buildings will be required to conduct a risk assessment of water quality with particular reference to combating contamination with Legionella bacteria. Legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia in human beings. An average of 30 cases of this illness are recorded in Finland annually. The duty of risk assessment applies to buildings that are used as primary facilities, where large numbers of people may be exposed to waterborne risks. Such buildings include swimming baths and spas, hotels, hospitals, and units providing institutional care.
EU-wide minimum hygiene requirements – to be specified at a later date in statutes issued by the European Commission – are now being prepared for materials that come into contact with water for human consumption, such as water pipes. A market surveillance authority will monitor the compliance with hygiene requirements of all marketed products that are intended for use in the water distribution chain. These amendments seek to ensure that products used in new water installations comply with the requirements and do not leach substances into household water that are harmful to health.
The reform affects the administrative branches of several ministries
The EU Drinking Water Directive was first drafted in 1998, and a revised version of the Directive took effect on 12 January 2021. Member States were given two years to transpose the Directive into their national legislation. In Finland this meant amending the Health Protection Act, the Water Services Act, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Act on the Market Surveillance of Certain Products.
The Directive was also implemented through subordinate statutes governing the quality and risk assessment of raw water and water for human consumption, self-monitoring of utilities supplying household water, water supply information systems and public information, and water installations in buildings. These amendments relate to the administrative branches of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
For details of the Health Protection Act and materials and products in contact with water for human consumption, contact Jarkko Rapala, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 29 516 3315, [email protected]
For details of the Water Services Act, contact Johanna Kallio, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 29 516 2011, [email protected]
For risk assessment of water systems in buildings, contact Tomi Marjamäki, Senior Specialist, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 29 525 0027, [email protected]
For details of the Environmental Protection Act, contact Erja Werdi, Senior Legal Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 29 525 0312, [email protected]
For details of market surveillance, contact Paula Porkola, Senior Officer, Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes), tel. +358 29 505 2081, [email protected]
For details of the Vesi.fi website, contact Seija Rantonen, Project Manager, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 29 525 1126, [email protected]