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New drinking water directive for increased resilience and sustainability

For a resilient water supply, both the supply and quality of the water need to be ensured. It demands materials that last over time and do not cause contamination. The latest update to the EU Drinking Water Directive brings new requirements affecting everyone involved in water supplies, from municipalities and property owners to producers of materials and products. The Materials in contact with drinking water network, operated by RISE, follows how the directive is implemented in Swedish law and provides support and guidance.

The EU Drinking Water Directive has been developed to create a similar management of water in the Member States. The aim is to take care of our water resources so that future generations will have access to a sufficient supply of good quality water. The latest update to the directive came into force in January 2021, with many new items that affect everyone who works with water supply.

“The aim is to better cover the entire chain, from source to tap, and include materials that come into contact with drinking water as well as building aspects that have not been regulated in the Drinking Water Directive before”, says Mylène Trublet, research and business developer at RISE and project manager of the Materials in contact with drinking water network.

Increased requirements for materials in contact with drinking water

The requirements for materials coming into contact with drinking water are governed by Article 11 of the Drinking Water Directive and apply both to new installations and repairs to existing installations for the outlet, preparation, storage and distribution of drinking water.

The changing requirements on materials, type-approval and testing are some of the key issues facing the members of the RISE network Materials in contact with drinking water. Members include the water suppliers as well as manufacturers of materials and products. This network gives access to the latest research and good examples in the field; members meet at seminars and can exchange experiences with each others. How the new directive is implemented in Swedish law is a very current issue.

“The network follows the work on the Drinking Water Directive, at EU and national level. At our next seminar, Boverket, the National Board of Building, Housing and Planning, will provide information about the process for the implementation of the directive into Swedish law, RISE and KIWA will talk about the approval process”, says Mylène Trublet.

The seminar "Materials and products in contact with drinking water" is being held 27 September 2022, and is open to all interested parties.

Tougher requirements could drive the development of unleaded brass

An example of a branch being affected by the tougher requirements is brass industry who have lead in their raw materials. In the new directive, the limit value for lead in drinking water has been halved. In addition, there is an ongoing discussion about the inclusion of lead on the authorisation list in Reach.

“In the long term, there may be a total ban of lead in materials coming into contact with drinking water. If the brass industry wants to live in the future, it will have to reposition, even if it is a challenge, says Mylène Trublet.

Lead makes brass easier to process and is used in valves, water meters and other components. RISE has participated in several research projects looking at both the possibility of manufacturing brass with a lower lead content and to making completely lead-free brass.

Studying how materials, such as lead-free brass, behave in contact with different types of water, can be done in new RISE test environment in Kista called the Water Rig.

“Here, we can compare different materials and products in different types of water and see how they behave, how they degrade and whether substances leach from the material. In the Water Rig, we can also study biofilms and we can test new sensors,” explains Mylène Trublet.

Products with longer lifespan

There are not only increased requirements in the new Drinking Water Directive, it also includes an easing that will be appreciated by many manufacturers.

“The type-approval process for materials and products in contact with drinking water will be harmonised at a certain level for all countries in the EU, with the Directive setting minimum requirements. I see that as positive, although some countries may have additional requirements”, says Mylène Trublet.
In addition to the requirements of the Directive, Sweden aims to develop materials and products for drinking water and wastewater that have a lifespan of 100-150 years.

“The goal is ambitious but it will also contribute to resilience and preparedness. If we can rely on our management system being robust and sustainable, we will have less unplanned maintenance and better readiness in the renovation and renewal of management systems. It is a good idea and also essential that in Sweden, we work towards sustainability and product durability – that is also what we at RISE are working on”, concludes Mylène Trublet.

Materials in contact with drinking water network

This network has 30 members and brings together principals, trade associations, manufacturers of materials and products and relevant authorities.

Members gain access to up-to-date information on legislation, regulatory framework, research, and materials and product development. The network meets regularly to discuss common issues and needs in the field.

Read more about the Materials in contact with drinking water network

Published: 2022-06-22
Charlotta Obitz

Contact person

Charlotta Obitz

Seniorforskare

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