Drinking water quality high as ever

The annual report from the Drinking Water Inspectorate shows that Britain's water quality has remained extremely high despite new tougher standards which came into force at the start of the year.

Over 99.9% of all drinking water complied with national and European health based standards across England and Wales, out of over 1.8 million tests.

The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water, Professor Jeni Colbourne said the figures put the safety of drinking water beyond question.

"To coincide with the new standards, we are publishing today a new style report that looks at drinking water quality on a regional basis," she added. "We are doing this because the overall quality of drinking water is so high that it is more relevant to look and see where in the country there is still a need for further improvement".

This year's DWI report has adopted a radically different approach in terms both of its design and its content. It includes:

  • Changes which reflect the views of local authorities
  • Reporting at a community level, revealing the disparities that can exist within a region
  • Focus on the consumer's experience, not just on meeting scientific standards
  • New compliance and other performance-related indices
  • Full details of all incidents reported and action taken

    "I believe this is the most comprehensive information on everything involved in the management of the safety and quality of public water supplies to be openly published anywhere in the world," Ms Colbourne addded.

    "Our report shows that the consumers' experience of tap water quality does indeed vary across the country. Consumer expectations are higher than ever and those who intermittently receive discoloured or bad tasting water rightly want something done about it. The permanent remedy to these aesthetic quality problems is appropriately targeted water company, distribution and maintenance strategies. In our report we give details of the improvement programmes that the Inspectorate is requiring of water companies over the next five years."

    "Ensuring the safety and good quality of drinking water is a never ending task of constant vigilance by many - I hope our regional reports raise awareness of how each and every one of us, including consumers, has a role to play. Drinking water quality is not judged solely by a single compliance number that relates to tests done in a laboratory".

    The results were welcomed by Environment Minister Eliot Morley who said the report drew together more detail than ever before and welcomed the recognition of consumers in the report.

    "I have been struck by the disparities that can exist not just between regions but between different parts of the same region. As consumers our main interest is in the results for our local area, and by analysing the detail right down to community level the DWI is offering consumers a far more informed perspective on what matters to them," he said.

    "I particularly welcome the emphasis given to the experience of the consumer. This year's report publishes information on complaints and company responses, recognising that providing a quality service is not only about passing scientific tests - it is also reflected by the satisfaction of consumers."

    By David Hopkins

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