New drinking water ordinance ensures high quality

Replacement of old lead pipes, new parameters and lower limits for pollutants: German Environment Agency (UBA) welcomes stricter rules for drinking water safety

Zwei Hände werden in einen Wasserstrahl gehalten. Im Hintergrund scheint die Sonne.Click to enlarge
Clean drinking water is a basic human right
Source: Aramanda /

The amendment to the Drinking Water Ordinance (TrinkwV) transposes important European requirements for drinking water protection into national law. Among other things, it provides for the introduction of risk-based drinking water protection, introduces new parameters and sets lower limits for pollutants such as chromium, arsenic and lead. Operators of water supply plants will also be obliged to decommission or replace old lead pipes.

Drinking water in Germany is of consistently high quality and is one of the best controlled food products. The ⁠Ministry of Health has comprehensively restructured the Drinking Water Ordinance with the cooperation of the⁠ UBA⁠. The second amended version of the Ordinance, which comes into force tomorrow (24/06/2023), ensures that our drinking water can continue to be used without hesitation and without risk to health.

By establishing risk-based drinking water protection, the amended Drinking Water Ordinance implements a central requirement of the EU Drinking Water Directive. In future, water suppliers will be obliged to identify potential risks and dangers to the water supply at an early stage and to be able to react to them appropriately. The new strategy is based on a risk assessment of the entire water supply chain, from water abstraction and treatment to storage, distribution and drinking water supply, and is geared towards prevention.

With the new Drinking Water Ordinance, chemical monitoring of drinking water will be extended to include substances such as bisphenol A, chlorate, chlorite, haloacetic acids (HAA-5) and microcystin-LR – a toxin of Cyanobacteria⁠ – also to the industrial chemical group of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS⁠) some of which penetrate into drinking water. This is a group of several thousand extremely stable compounds that are used, among other things, in the production of cosmetics, cookware and textiles. Substances from the PFAS group break down only with difficulty, accumulate in the environment and in the bodies of humans and animals, and can cause damage to health. Together with other European authorities, the UBA is calling for an EU-wide restriction on PFASs (press release no. 02/2023).

The new limit value for PFAS is introduced in two stages. From 12 January 2026, 0.1 micrograms per litre (µg/L) will apply as a cumulative limit value for a group of 20 PFAS substances relevant to drinking water. For four special substances from the PFAS group (PFHxS, ⁠ PFOS⁠, ⁠PFOA⁠, PFNA) the Drinking Water Ordinance additionally sets a limit of 0.02 µg/L for the sum of these compounds from 2028.

In future, old lead pipes must in principle be replaced or decommissioned by 12 January 2026. The heavy metal lead is hazardous to health even at very low intake levels. In Germany, lead water pipes are hardly a problem any more. The low limit value of a maximum of 10 µg/L cannot usually be met by drinking water flowing through lead pipes. In addition, the Drinking Water Ordinance reduces the existing limits for the heavy metals chromium, arsenic and lead with a time lag.

Schematische Darstellung des Water-Safety-Plan-Konzepts
Grafik risikobasierter Ansatz TrinkwasserV

Schematische Darstellung des Water-Safety-Plan-Konzepts

Source: UBA / WSP-Handbuch
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