After two years of development, new drinking water regulations were officially signed into legislation in March, aimed at enhancing standards from source to tap.
When announcing the new regulations on World Water Day, 22nd March, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH), Darragh O’Brien, said that they would ‘add additional quality measures to continue to ensure that our drinking water remains wholesome and clean.’
The regulations are informed by the recast EU Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and introduce a more risk-based approach to water safety. Following the publication of the new DWD in 2020,
an expert working group was formed to assist in transposing its contents into Irish legislation. The National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) sat with other stakeholders on said group and four sub-groups to assist the DHLGH in its preparations.
The regulations impact those that are supplying more than 10m3 or 50 persons per day. All supplies will be required to complete risk assessment and risk management of catchment areas for abstraction points, and for the whole supply system from catchment to point of consumer delivery.
The list of parameters monitored has been updated. Mostly notably, new chemical parameters have been introduced, including Bisphenol A, microcystin-LR, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which could possibly be found in drinking water sources.
Other newly introduced parameters, such as chlorate, chlorite and haloacetic acids (HAAs), are disinfection by-products and may be particularly relevant for GWSs with surface water sources.
As part of the new risk assessment approach, supplies that can adequately show that certain parameters do not have a relevance of risk in its supply may not need to sample for these as
frequently. A new ‘watch list’ for emerging parameters of concern has also been created.
Materials and substances that come into contact with drinking water throughout the source to tap chain will be subject to minimum hygiene and other requirements to ensure that they
do not have a detrimental effect on water quality. This includes pumps, pipework, treatment chemicals, filter media etc.
Consumers must be given timely information on their drinking water quality under the new regulations, which additionally place a particular emphasis on increasing public access to drinking water.
Suppliers will be required to assess water leakage levels in the distribution network and there will be a broadening of the regulations concerning ‘penalties and prosecutions’ to include offences in relation to pollution or contamination of a source of water intended for human consumption.
Although there have been extensive changes to the regulations, the GWS sector is well-equipped to adapt to their dictates. The risk-based, water safety planning approach will be very similar to the NFGWS quality assurance system and GWSs are already well-informed on levels of unaccounted-for water thanks to universal metering on distribution networks.
The expert working group and sub-groups, established during the DWD transposition period, will remain in situ to assist in developing a strategy for the practical implementation of the new regulations. The NFGWS will subsequently be publishing timely, in-depth information and advice for each element in accordance with emerging guidance and best practice.