Introduction to the study:
The DWD impact assessment, conducted by a consortium led by ACTeon and Ecorys, aims to support the Commission in the assessment of a number of relevant policy options in line with the requirements for Better Regulation. The authors followed guidance provided by the EU “tool box” on conducting impact assessments and assessed the social-, environmental -and economic implications of the selected policy and sub-policy options.
The final impact assessment report was accepted by the Commission in March 2017 and can be accessed through the link below. The report includes, next to the Executive Summary, information on the process, methodology used and availability of information sources, the overall findings on social-, environmental-, economic- and other relevant aspects. The report includes an overview of how the various policy options score on each of the relevant criteria (e.g. health impact, implementation cost and impact at household level for each EU Member State).
Main actions and findings:
The DWD evaluation study identified a number of areas where the Directive could benefit from an update, these findings supported development of the baseline for the impact assessment. In addition, the study team developed an outlook towards 2050, identifying future pressures that are likely to hamper the provision of safe drinking water to all EU citizens now and in years to come. These developments resulted in defining a number of broad PO, which were narrowed down to a total of 12 PO through contributions from stakeholders end 2015. The selected PO have as aim to enhance the cost-effective implementation of the EU drinking water policy, strengthening its coherence with other EU directives (in particular with the WFD) and ensuring better informed drinking water consumers. These Policy Options fall under 5 key areas:
- Updating the list and limit values of parameters with 3 sub-options: PO 1.1: Update of the parameters in Annex I according to scientific progress and following recommendations of the WHO; PO 1.2: Updating the list of parameters in the Annex I to longer list C (including all parameters potentially harmful); and PO1.3: Reduction of the number of parameters in Annex I to a minimum list, with the same limit values than those specified under the current Annex I of the DWD.
- Promoting Risk-Based Assessment (RBA) and the establishment of Water Safety Plans for addressing drinking water pollution risks, with 2 sub-options: PO 2.1: compulsory implementation of RBA for all large water suppliers; and PO2.2: compulsory implementation of RBA for both large and small water suppliers.
- Proposing EU harmonized standards for materials and products in contact with drinking water, with two sub-options: PO 3 that promotes an EU-wide standardisation process, and PO 3 bis that builds on the parallel standardisation processes carried out by individual MS with a recognition of each others’ standards;
- Ensuring SMART information to drinking water consumers, with 3 sub-options: PO4.1: simplified automatic electronic reporting to EC; PO 4.2: Timely basic online information to consumers about quality of drinking water; and PO4.3.: Ensuring advanced SMART access to a wider range of information related to the management and efficiency of the management and performance of drinking water operator.
- Providing the right to safe drinking water to all EU inhabitants, with 2 sub-options: PO5.1: All people that are not connected to PWS today will be connected to Public Water Supply networks; and PO 5.2: Providing all people not connected to PWS with the leans/self-supply systems that ensure they have access to DW.
Further assessment of the potential health, economic, social and environmental impacts of these Policy Options has been carried out for 9 of these 12 sub-options, the assessment distinguishing impacts for three different groups: consumers, water suppliers and authorities in charge of the implementation of the DWD (or of any regulatory framework that would replace this directive). Three sub-options were excluded from the assessment, namely:
– PO 1.3 narrowing down (shortening) the list of parameters, as it leads to a reduction in the level of drinking water protection currently put in place by the DWD;
– PO 3 that kept an individual MS standardisation process considered as very similar to the baseline conditions; and
– PO 4.1 that required automated reporting to the EC, with potential impacts being considered too marginal and limited to reduced reporting costs (this option was still integrated in the two other Policy Options dealing with SMART information to drinking water consumers).
The main outcomes of the ex-ante impact assessment are as follows:
- In terms of potential health impacts, the largest reduction in number of people at high health risk (PPHR) (without considering the population at marginal risk) by 2050 is for PO 1.2 (establishing a wide list of parameters) followed by PO 3 (harmonizing standards for material in contact with drinking water) and PO 4.3 (SMART information to consumers);
- In terms of costs, PO 5.1 (drinking water to all via PWS) and PO 1.2 (full list of parameters) are by far the most expensive. At the opposite, the two Policy Options that promote a more systematic application of RBA and WSP (PO 2.1 and PO 2.2) lead to some (although limited) benefits (cost savings) as compared to the baseline scenario;
- Incremental cost (cost-saving) per additional person protected (in €person/year) are best for the two Policy Options that promote a more systematic application of RBA (cost-saving of 61 €additional person protected/year and 62 €additional person protected/year for PO 2.2 and 2.1, respectively), then for PO 1.1 (updated list of parameters: cost of +81 €additional person protected/year). At the other extreme, the cost is as high as 2007 €/additional person/year for PO 5.1 (drinking water to all via PWS).
Overall, the Policy Options promoting the wider use of RBA and the establishment of WSP (2.1 and 2.2), along with Policy Options promoting SMART information to drinking water consumers (4.2 and 4.3), appear as providing an interesting balance between expected (positive) health impacts (reduction in the indicator PPHR) and costs (or costs savings). PO 5.1 with significantly high costs and limited improvements in the PPHR indicator appears as the least interesting Policy Option investigated in terms of impacts.
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