Drinking Water

Safe levels of copper in drinking water

Water is our body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of our body weight, while every system in our body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to our cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.

Drinking water comes from a variety of sources including public water systems, private wells, or bottled water. The taste of drinking water varies from one location to another, depending on the minerals that are dissolved in the water while it is underground. Drinking water should ideally have a pleasant taste and be clear, cool, colourless and odourless.

The quality of drinking water is a powerful environmental determinant of health, as underlined by the WHO. High quality, safe and sufficient drinking water is essential for our daily life, for drinking and food preparation. We also use it for many other purposes, such as washing, cleaning, hygiene or watering our plants.

The European Union has a history of over 30 years of drinking water policy

The EU policy ensures that water intended for human consumption can be consumed safely on a life-long basis, and this represents a high level of health protection.

The European Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC came into force in 1998 to set standards for safe levels of copper in drinking water at the point of use (i.e. the tap in domestic water distribution systems). This Directive harmonized the quality of drinking water across the European Union, with a transition period of 15 years during which the limit values of metals, such as copper alloys, are to be implemented into national legislation.

To ensure the hygienic safety of the water we drink, four EU Member States (France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) – known as 4MS – formalised arrangements in 2011 to work together on this important aspect of the regulatory frameworks.

15 years of research

Today, about twenty copper alloys are commonly used to carry safe and healthy tap water via copper pipes to our homes and businesses. The copper industry has continuously tested different alloys for their health effects and compatibility with the new EU requirements and adapted the chemical composition of exiting alloys.

New alloys are being currently testing and submitted for approval and published by 4MS, which committed to make the information and documents public once fully agreed.