What are the requirements for drinking water
The production of drinking water offers extensive protection against unknown organisms and chemical substances at all times thanks to the multi-barrier principle and compliance with the generally recognized rules of technology. In particular, soil passage and particle filtration should be emphasized here as effective steps. The morphology and chemical structure of SARS-CoV-2 is very similar to other coronaviruses, in which studies have shown that water is not a relevant transmission path. Compared to enteroviruses, these enveloped viruses show less persistence in water and are easier to inactivate than noro- or adenoviruses. The risk of direct transmission of coronaviruses via the faeces of infected people also appears to be low; to date, no case of faecal-oral transmission of the virus has been known.
Quality report published for the period 2017 to 2019
The EC Drinking Water Directive obliges all member states to submit a report on the quality of water intended for human consumption every three years. A reporting obligation exists for water supply areas in which more than 1,000 cubic meters (m³) of drinking water are given off or in which more than 5,000 people are supplied. In Germany, reporting is mandatory for 2,485 water supply areas (as of 2019), and around 4.7 billion cubic meters of drinking water are distributed in these areas to around 88 percent of the German population every year.
The drinking water in the reportable German water supply areas is of very good quality. This is the conclusion of the sixth report by the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) to consumers on the quality of "water for human consumption" (drinking water), which covers the years 2017 to 2019.
The results of the drinking water monitoring show that the strict requirements of the Drinking Water Ordinance (TrinkwV) were complied with and the limit values were not exceeded for almost all microbiological and chemical quality parameters in over 99% of the investigations. For many parameters it was even 99.9 to 100%.
What do limit values mean?
If limit values are exceeded, they do not always mean a health risk. This depends on the parameter as well as the amount and duration of the excess. For example, the occurrence of coliform bacteria in drinking water indicates a general deterioration in water quality and thus the need for further investigations to clarify the cause and initiate preventive measures to protect the health of the population. Exceeding the limit values for the lead parameter is, for example, an indication of still existing lead pipes in the drinking water installation or of fittings that do not comply with the generally recognized rules of technology.
What happens if limit values are exceeded?
If limit values are exceeded, identifying and eliminating the cause has priority over combating the symptoms. The responsible health department therefore checks whether exceeding the limit represents a health risk and requires immediate remedial action, or whether it is temporarily tolerable until measures to eliminate the cause take effect.
Contents of the drinking water ordinance
Drinking water is the number one food. At the same time, it is used for domestic purposes such as body cleaning, washing clothes or flushing toilets. The quality of the drinking water in Germany has to meet high requirements. The Drinking Water Ordinance (TrinkwV), in which the EC Drinking Water Directive from 1998 was implemented into national law, makes this binding. The basic requirements include not only that the drinking water must not contain any pathogens or substances in concentrations that are harmful to health, but also that it is "pure and safe for human consumption".
The Drinking Water Ordinance (TrinkwV) also regulates the obligations of the supply companies and the monitoring authorities and determines the microbiological and chemical parameters to be examined as well as the frequency of drinking water monitoring. In order to guarantee the hygienic safety of drinking water, the ordinance also requires that limit values and requirements for water quality at the tapping points for drinking water in the household are complied with.
According to European requirements, the EURATOM guideline 2013/51, drinking water in Germany must be examined and monitored for the content of radioactive substances. The 3rd amendment to the Drinking Water Ordinance, in agreement with the Federal Environment Ministry, stipulated requirements for the measurement and monitoring of drinking water quality with regard to artificial and natural radioactive substances. For example, parameter values for radon, tritium and for the guide dose including the radon progeny are specified.
The radiation exposure from radioactive substances in drinking water can be assessed as very low on average in Germany. However, depending on the geology of the subsurface, drinking water can contain an increased content of natural radioactive substances. The regulations increase the safety of drinking water with regard to this group of substances, since health protection is given the highest priority and the precautionary principle of radiation protection is also applied in this area in a legally binding manner.
Current version and citation of the Drinking Water Ordinance
The ordinance on the quality of water for human consumption (Drinking Water Ordinance - TrinkwV) of May 21, 2001 was essentially changed by five amending ordinances in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019. If the current version of the ordinance on the quality of water for human consumption is to be cited, the official abbreviation "Drinking Water Ordinance" or the official abbreviation "TrinkwV" can be chosen. When it comes to describing the Drinking Water Ordinance in a certain version, the full quotation is suitable. For example, the full quotation of the currently applicable version is as follows:
"Drinking Water Ordinance in the version published on March 10, 2016 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 459), which was last amended by Article 99 of the Ordinance of June 19, 2020 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 1328)"
The current version of the Drinking Water Ordinance can be found here.
Technical responsibility in Germany
The ministry responsible for drinking water in Germany is the BMG. The technical support is carried out by the UBA. Its responsibility arises from the technical supervision of the BMG over the department "Drinking and Bathing Pool Water Hygiene" of the UBA.
In addition to the information in the report, consumers can obtain information about the quality of the drinking water in their supply area from the responsible health department or the water supplier.
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