Drinking Water Standards and Their Implementation—A Critical Assessment
2. Contaminant Categories—Regulated Parameters
- Index organisms and model organisms, suggestive of pathogen presence and behavior, respectively, such as Clostridium perfringens, an index for enteric viruses.
3. Assessment of Standards and Regulated Parameters
3.1. Chemical Contaminants
3.1.1. Overview of Standards and Regulations
3.1.2. Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC)
- Statutory DW guideline values;
- Provisional guideline values based on recent toxicity data in absence of DW guidelines;
- Generic DW target values in absence of toxicity data.
3.1.3. Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
3.1.4. Disinfection Byproducts (DBP)
3.2. Microbiological Contaminants
3.2.1. Indicator Microorganisms
- New infections resulting from changes in, or evolution of, existing organisms.
- Known infections spreading to new geographic areas or populations.
- Previously unrecognized infections appearing in areas undergoing ecologic transformation.
- Old infections re-emerging as a result of antibiotic resistance in known agents or breakdowns in public health measures.
- Which viruses could be used as biological markers;
- Which volume or amount of sample is ideal for virus detection;
- Which method is best for concentrating viruses from different matrices;
- When the use of genome detection or infectivity properties is more appropriate.
3.2.2. Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Antibiotic-Resistance Genes (ARG)
3.3. Radiological Contaminants
“…it is not appropriate at this time to revise any of the NPDWRs covered under the Phase Rules or Radionuclide Rules. These NPDWRs were determined not to be candidates for revision for one or more of the following reasons: There was no new information to suggest possible changes in MCLG/MCL; new information did not present a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction or cost savings while maintaining/improving public health protection; or there was an ongoing or pending regulatory action” .
4. Assessment of Standards Implementation
4.1. Monitoring Mode of Surveillance/Sampling
- The identification of the hazards associated with the catchment areas for abstraction points;
- A possibility for the water supplier to adapt monitoring to the main risks and to take the necessary measures to manage the risks identified in the supply chain from the abstraction, treatment, storage, and distribution of water;
- An assessment of the potential risks stemming from domestic DS, such as Legionella or lead.
“…If a parameter is not detected, water suppliers should be able to decrease the monitoring frequency or to stop monitoring that parameter altogether. Risk assessment and risk management of the supply system should be carried out for most parameters…This Directive mainly sets provisions on monitoring frequency for the purposes of compliance checks, with only limited provisions on monitoring for operational purposes…Such additional monitoring should be performed at the discretion of water suppliers. In that regard, water suppliers could refer to the WHO Guidelines and Water Safety Plan Manual.” .
- Groundwater systems: a minimum of one sample at every entry point to the DS, which is representative of each well after treatment, beginning in the initial compliance period.
- Surface water systems: a minimum of one sample at every entry point to the DS after any application of treatment or in the DS at a point, which is representative of each source after treatment in the initial compliance period.
- If a system draws water from more than one source and the sources are combined before distribution, the system must sample at an entry point to the DS during periods of normal operating conditions (i.e., when water is representative of all sources used).
4.2. Accepted Analytical Techniques
- Identifying the characteristics of source water and determining its required treatment.
- Evaluating the performance/efficacy of DW treatment plants.
- Monitoring the (mostly undesirable and/or unforeseen) processes taking place in the DW DS (including the detection of accidental or intentional release of harmful substances).
- Insufficient or contradictory data regarding the contaminant’s presence and persistence in DW.
- Drawbacks in the available analytical methods/procedures for the identification and quantification of contaminants, including sampling protocols and lack of standardization thereof (e.g., large volumes of water samples required for some contaminant classes).
- The significant cost of monitoring (e.g., for specialized analytical equipment and personnel and extensive water supply risk assessment associated with the WSP approach).
- The measured quality parameters;
- The frequency of sampling;
- The points of compliance;
- The specifications of the employed/approved analytical methods.
- Completeness. There are serious deficiencies regarding inclusion in the standards mainly of chemical (CECs, DBPs, PFAS, perchlorate, and Cr (VI)) and microbiological contaminants (enteric viruses, Pseudomonas, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Legionella, ARB/ARGs, and enveloped viruses).
- Adequacy. The most serious issues are related to the microbiological contaminants regarding the representativeness of indices, currently employed not for individual contaminants but for entire classes (e.g., bacteriophages as indicators of enteric viruses). Significant uncertainties are also identified regarding the stipulated limit values for several chemical contaminants.
- Implementation/monitoring. The importance of this aspect regarding drinking water quality is obvious, considering the variety of contamination sources in the distribution network, i.e., between the DW treatment plant and consumers taps. It is, therefore, understandable and appropriate that emphasis is placed on the regulations to adequately monitor DW quality. However, regarding effective monitoring, there are major issues and concerns due to the inherent deficiencies of the presently available/approved analytical techniques for determining chemical and, in particular, microbiological contaminants. Such deficiencies are related to the required sampling protocols (necessitating large sample volumes, adequacy of sensor networks, and sampling location/frequency) and in particular to the considerably long analysis time (of several hours) that essentially determines the response time of the entire monitoring system. Therefore, the time to implement such protocols is at present too long, rendering the system inefficient and incapable to cope with problems requiring relatively fast system response (e.g., unforeseen events, such as accidents and natural disasters). Moreover, the long analysis time (and delayed response) essentially neutralizes the benefits resulting from the recent progress made in fast signal acquisition/transmission and data collection and management systems.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|Contaminant||Inclusion in EU, USEPA, WHO Standards||Standards||Measurement Technique||Comments-Assessment|
Limit values or MCLs of chemical parameters
|EU Directive 2020/2184||Yes||Annex I, Part B||General comments:|
|USEPA NPDWR||Yes||§ 141.11 and|
|WHO Guidelines||Yes||Table 8.10, 8.13, 8.16 & Table A3.3/Annex 3||Table A4.1-4 of Annex 4 a|
|CECs||EU Directive 2020/2184||Pesticides b||0.1 μg/L b||Pesticides: The performance characteristics for individual pesticides are given as an indication (Table A1 of Part B Annex III). Values for the uncertainty of measurement as low as 30% can be achieved for several pesticides, while higher values up to 80 % may be allowed for a number of pesticides.|
PAHs: the performance characteristics displayed in Table A1 of Part B, Annex III, apply to individual substances, specified at 25% of the parametric value.
|Pesticides Total c||0.5 μg/L c|
|PAHs d||0.1 μg/L d|
|USEPA NPDWR||A few EDCs and PPCPs in the CCL 4, not in enforceable standards|
|WHO Guidelines||Focus on pharmac/cals; no values||Pesticides: Table A4.5 of Annex 4|
|PFAS||EU Directive 2020/2184||Total e||0.50 μg/L e||By 12 January 2024, the EU Commission shall establish technical guidelines regarding methods of analysis including detection limits, parametric values, and frequency of sampling.|
|Sum of PFAS f||0.10 μg/L f|
|USEPA NPDWR||No federal enforceable standards||Although they have been systematically detected in more than 25 states, there are no federal enforceable standards |
|WHO Guidelines||No values|
|Perchlorate||EU Regulation 2020/749 for chlorate residues in food and DW||Maximum residual level (MRL)||0.01 mg/kg|||
|WHO Guidelines||Yes||0.07 mg/L|
|DBP||EU Directive 2020/2184||HAAs g||60 μg/L g|
|THM (Total) h||100 μg/L h||THM: the performance characteristics displayed in Table A1 of Part B, Annex III, apply to individual substances, specified at 25% of the parametric value.|
|0 mg/L||§ 141.131 and https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P100WD1L.txt (accessed on 8 September 2020)|
|dichloroacetic acid||0 mg/L|
|Monochloroacetic acid||0.07 mg/L|
|Trichloroacetic acid||0.02 mg/L|
|WHO Guidelines||HAAs, THMs included in EU and USEPA regulations||Table 8.16 and Table A3.3 of Annex 3|
Limit values, MCLGs and treatment techniques (TT) i for indicator pathogens
|EU Directive 2020/2184||Yes||Annex I, Parts A and C||Annex III, Part A||General comments:|
|USEPA NPDWR||Yes||§ 141.52||§ 141.21|
|WHO Guidelines||Yes||Table 7.5 and 7.10||Table 7.11 with ISO standards for detection and quantification of fecal indicator organisms in water|
|Enteric viruses||EU Directive 2020/2184||Not included|
|USEPA NPDWR||No MCL but MCLG or treatment technique (TT) i||Zero and 99.99% removal/inactivation||Not specified|
|WHO Guidelines||No value|
|Pseudomonas||EU Directive 2020/2184||Not included||Detected in treated water samples with free residual chlorine of 0.2–2.0 mg/L , confirming this species’ resistance to conventional water treatment processes |
|USEPA NPDWR||No MCL but MCLG or TT i||Not specified|
|WHO Guidelines||No value|
|Cryptosporidium||EU Directive 2020/2184||Not included|
|USEPA NPDWR||No MCL but MCLG or TT i||Zero and 99% removal for filtration j||§ 141.704 l|
|WHO Guidelines||No value|
|Giardia lamblia||EU Directive 2020/2184||Not included|
|USEPA NPDWR||No MCL but MCLG or TT i||Zero and 99.9% removal/inactivation||Not specified|
|WHO Guidelines||No value|
|Legionella||EU Directive 2020/2184||Limit value in the case of a risk assessment that indicates Legionella’s monitoring||<1000 CFU/L||In accordance with EN ISO 11731|
For risk-based verification monitoring and to complement culture methods, methods such as ISO/TS 12869, rapid culture methods, non-culture-based methods, and molecular-based methods (in particular, qPCR), can be used.
|USEPA NPDWR||No MCL but MCLG or TT i||Zero k||Not specified|
|WHO Guidelines||No value|
|ARB and ARGs||EU Directive 2020/2184||Not included|
|USEPA NPDWR||Not included|
|WHO Guidelines||Not included|
Limit values or MCLs of radiological indicators
|EU Directive 2013/51/EURATOM||Yes||Annex I||§3, Annex III||General comments:|
|USEPA NPDWR||Yes||§ 141.66||§ 141.25 and https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P100WD57.txt (accessed on 11 October 2020)|
|WHO Guidelines||Yes||Table 9.2, Box 9.4 and Table A6.1, Annex 5|
|CCA||Chromogenic coliform agar|
|CCL||Contaminant Candidate List|
|CDC||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|
|CECs||Contaminants of emerging concern|
|COVID-19||Coronavirus disease 2019|
|CWS||Contamination warning system|
|DOM||Dissolved organic matter|
|DPR||Direct potable reuse|
|DWD||Drinking Water Directive|
|E. coli||Escherichia coli|
|EQS||Environmental quality standards|
|EWG||Environmental Working Group|
|GC/MS||Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry|
|HACCP||Hazard Assessment and Critical Control Points|
|HRGC/HRMS||High-resolution (HR) gas chromatography/HR mass spectrometry|
|ICCs||Industrial and commercial compounds|
|ISO||International Organization for Standardization|
|LCR||Lead and Copper Rule|
|MCLs||Maximum contaminant levels|
|MERS-CoV||Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus|
|MPN||Most probable number|
|NOM||Natural organic matter|
|NPDWR||National Primary Drinking Water Regulations|
|NSFWQI||National Science Foundation Water Quality Index|
|ORP||Oxidation reduction potential|
|PAF||Population attributable fraction|
|PFAS||Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances|
|PFOS||Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid|
|PPCPs||Personal care products|
|PWS||Public water system|
|qPCR||Quantitative polymerase chain reaction|
|R&D||Research & development|
|REMdb||Radioactivity Environmental Monitoring database|
|RTCR||Revised Total Coliform Rule|
|SARS-CoV-2||Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2|
|SDWA||Safe Drinking Water Act|
|SWTR||Surface Water Treatment Rule|
|TCR||Total Coliform Rule|
|TOC||Total organic carbon|
|UCMR||Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation|
|USEPA||United States Environmental Protection Agency|
|WDS||Water distribution system|
|WHO||World Health Organization|
|WQI||Water quality index|
|WSP||Water safety plan|
|WWTPs||Waste water treatment plants|
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|Source of Chemical Constituents||Examples of Sources|
|Naturally occurring||Rocks, soils, and the effects of the geological setting and climate; eutrophic water bodies (also influenced by sewage inputs and agricultural runoff)|
|Industrial sources and human dwellings||Mining (extractive industries) and manufacturing and processing industries, sewage (including a number of contaminants of emerging concern), solid wastes, urban runoff, fuel leakages|
|Agricultural activities||Manures, fertilizers, intensive animal practices, and pesticides|
|Water treatment or materials in contact with DW||Coagulants, disinfection byproducts (DBPs), piping materials|
|Pesticides used in water for public health||Larvicides used in the control of insect vectors of disease|
|Chemical||WHO Guideline Value, mg/L||EU DWD Limit Value, mg/L||USEPA NPDWR MCL, mg/L|
|Chromium (total) *||0.05||0.05||0.1|
|2,4-Dichloro- phenoxy-acetic acid (2,4-D)||0.03||-||0.07|
|Optics (non-imaging)||Measuring bacterial growth by detecting changes in optical signals using photometers|
|Optics (imaging individual cell)||Measuring physiological, morphological, metabolic, or structural features of bacteria with cameras integrated with microscopy|
|Optics (imaging population)||Measuring population of bacteria in liquid with imaging|
|Electrochemistry (sensor)||Measuring bacterial growth by detecting changes in electro-chemical features of the electrodes and analytes|
|Electrochemistry (biosensor)||Measuring bacterial growth by monitoring changes in electrochemical features of cells or metabolites using bio-elements immobilized on electrodes|
|Measuring E. coli growth by detecting changes in conductivity with C4D or other contactless sensors|
|Microcalorimetry||Monitoring heat generation by growing bacterial cells|
|Resonant mass||Quantifying cell number by measuring changes in the mass of individual cells using a small channel of cantilever|
|Gene analysis||Measuring E. coli growth by detecting genes via augmentation with PCR|
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Tsaridou, C.; Karabelas, A.J. Drinking Water Standards and Their Implementation—A Critical Assessment. Water 2021, 13, 2918. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202918
Tsaridou C, Karabelas AJ. Drinking Water Standards and Their Implementation—A Critical Assessment. Water. 2021; 13(20):2918. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202918Chicago/Turabian Style
Tsaridou, Charikleia, and Anastasios J. Karabelas. 2021. "Drinking Water Standards and Their Implementation—A Critical Assessment" Water 13, no. 20: 2918. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202918