Revised drinking-water guidelines issued

The revised WHO “Guidelines for drinking-water quality”, call on governments to strengthen their management of drinking-water quality by adopting water safety plans. Countries’ implementation of this approach can yield significant and sustainable improvements in public health, although it often requires a paradigm shift in drinking-water management.

The guidelines require water suppliers systematically to assess the potential risk of contaminants’ entering water, from the catchment to the consumer, to take action based on their findings and to document the process. 

For the first time, comprehensive recommendations on good practice are provided for all levels, from household rainwater harvesting and safe storage, to policy advice on bulk water supply and the implications of climate change. The new guidelines also include recommendations on drinking-water safety, microbial hazards, climate change, chemical contaminants in drinking-water and key chemicals responsible for large-scale health effects. Often forming the basis of national laws and regulations, the guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence.

Water and sanitation in Europe

Each year, 2 million people die from waterborne diseases and billions more suffer illness; most victims are children aged under 5. Ensuring safe drinking-water can prevent much of this ill health and suffering.

In the European Region, access to an improved water supply and sanitation has reduced diarrhoeal disease in young children. Nevertheless, over 330 000 cases of water-related disease are reported on average every year, and over 50% of the rural population in eastern countries still lives in homes that are not connected to a safe drinking-water supply.

WHO/Europe promotes water safety plans

WHO/Europe has pioneered and promoted countries’ adoption of water safety plans (WSPs) through training and demonstration workshops in eastern Europe, the Caucasus and central Asia. In 2011, WHO/Europe has held training workshops on WSPs and surveillance of drinking-water quality in Albania, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. It plans to issue the WSP manual and  quality assurance/assessment tool in Russian.

WHO-supported activities include demonstration projects to introduce WSPs in small-scale water supply systems in Georgia and Tajikistan, and the development of WSPs in pilot cities in Kyrgyzstan.