Water safety plan enhancements with improved drinking water quality detection techniques

Maria J. Gunnarsdottir*, Sigurdur M. Gardarsson, Maria J. Figueras, Clàudia Puigdomènech, Rubén Juárez, G. Saucedo, M. José Arnedo, Ricardo Santos, Silvia Monteiro, Lisa Avery, E. Pagaling, Richard Allan, Claire Abel, J. Eglitis, B. Hambsch, Michael Hügler, Andreja Rajkovic, Nada Smigic, Bozidar Udovicki, Hans Jörgen AlbrechtsenAlma López-Avilés, Paul Hunter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Drinking water quality has been regulated in most European countries for nearly two decades by the drinking water directive 98/83/EC. The directive is now under revision with the goal of meeting stricter demands for safe water for all citizens, as safe water has been recognized as a human right by the United Nations. An important change to the directive is the implementation of a risk-based approach in all regulated water supplies. The European Union Framework Seventh Programme Aquavalens project has developed several new detection technologies for pathogens and indicators and tested them in water supplies in seven European countries. One of the tasks of the project was to evaluate the impact of these new techniques on water safety and on water safety management. Data were collected on risk factors to water safety for five large supplies in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the UK, and for fifteen small water supplies in Scotland, Portugal and Serbia, via a questionnaire aiming to ascertain risk factors and the stage of implementation of Water Safety Plans, and via site-specific surveys known as Sanitary Site Inspection. Samples were collected from the water supplies from all stages of water production to delivery. Pathogens were detected in around 23% of the 470 samples tested. Fecal contamination was high in raw water and even in treated water at the small supplies. Old infrastructure was considered a challenge at all the water supplies. The results showed that some of the technique, if implemented as part of the water safety management, can detect rapidly the most common waterborne pathogens and fecal pollution indicators and therefore have a great early warning potential; can improve water safety for the consumer; can validate whether mitigation methods are working as intended; and can confirm the quality of the water at source and at the tap.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134185
JournalScience of the Total Environment, The
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

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  • Drinking water safety
  • Risk factors in water supply
  • Water safety plan performance


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