Open Letter on the Drinking Water Directive and the Right to Water

Brussels, 28 May 2020

To : the MEPs of the EU Parliament
For information to : the Commission of the EU and Council of the EU

As already highlighted in our previous statements,Coronavirus pandemic emergency has revealed the urgency of a deep improvement of the European water normative, firstly of the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Unfortunately EU institutions seem to continue to legislate in the water field without taking into account what we learn from pandemic, social emergency and climate change. This negative impression is confirmed by the last revision of the DWD that will be submitted to the final vote of the EU Parliament.

In particular the text under scrutiny is very unsatisfactory for what concerns the real implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) adopted by the UN General Assembly Resolution 64/292 (July 28th, 2010).

This revision has no reference to the UN HRWS. The request “to ensure universal and affordable access” as a right is no longer declared and it is reduced to a generic scope “to improve access to water”. This vague concept is in practice clearly of no effect. Even the positive introduction of provisions regarding definition and inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups without or with limited water access is completely delegated to the Member States in the absence of minimum clear fixed requirements to all, so this make uncertain the implementation of this disposition and fails to implement common standards to guarantee a Human Right throughout the Union.

Analogous considerations apply to fountains and sanitation in public areas. The same goes for the need to promote tap water. If EU really wants to make the Green Deal effective it can not laze around key aspects such as fighting against the consumption of plastic.

Other key dispositions essential for the real implementation of the HRWS are completely missing like the obligation to provide a minimum quantity of daily water supply based on WHO and UN standards, the affordability of water supply services, the prohibition of water disconnections, the exclusion of water supply and water resources management from liberalizations and trade and investment agreements. Some of these measures are taken by MS in time of coronacrisis and EU should integrate it into legislation forever.

In conclusion the text of the DWD submitted to the vote of the EU Parliament disregards the HRWS deliberated by the UN and the demands of the first European Citizens’ Initiative signed by 1.884.790 european citizens and presented to the EU Parliament and Commission. It should also be pointed out that subjects involved in the last revision of this directive, i.e. in the Video Conference of DW expert group of 30 April, are completely ignoring the present emergency situation.

All this is unacceptable, therefore the EU Parliament is called to vote NO to this revision. Only in this way we can have some chances to rethink deeply the normative on water, mainly the DWD and the WFD in order to make water and sanitation, at last, a common good.