Drinking water improves eleven-fold in eight years

Drinking water samples failing to meet standards in 2000 were less than one eleventh of the number failing in 1992, according to a new report by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI).

In 2000, 99.83% of the 2.7 million drinking water samples tested by the DWI met the required standards, with only 4,500 failing, compared to 50,000 in 1992, and is the best result achieved by water companies to date, says the DWI’s annual report, Drinking Water 2000: A report by the Chief Inspector. There were also no outbreaks of cyptosporidiosis associated with public water supplies reported during 2000 in any of the areas being supplied from sites being monitored under new Cryptosporidium Regulations which where launched over a year ago, says the report.

According to the DWI, the improvement has come about due to continued enforcement action by the organisation against companies whose drinking water fails to meet required standards, a strategy which has required water companies to implement major improvement programmes at water treatment works and their distribution systems, costing over £5.7 billion.

“The year on year improvement in drinking water quality is very good news for consumers,” said Chief Drinking Water Inspector Michael Rouse. “Consumers are receiving tap water of very high quality from which pesticides have been virtually eliminated and the risk from microbiological contamination is extremely low.”

Environment Minister Michael Meacher announced that he expected the rise in standards to continue, as improvement programmes are completed. “Tough enforcement action by DWI has required water companies to implement major improvement programmes,” Meacher said. “I welcome this significant investment, which has safeguarded public health and led to a decrease in the number of breaches of standards. Consumers can be confident that they are receiving drinking water of increasingly high quality.”

The Government will be launching a consultation in the autumn on setting out a framework for increasing competition, said Meacher.

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