On 23 January last year, the European Parliament published the long-awaited Drinking Water Quality Directive, which had been debated for a good few years. Member states were given 24 months to adapt its provisions to local law. We therefore have just over a few months left to make tangible changes to bring water supply networks into line with the new EU requirements.
- Highlights of the new EU directive
- Condition of the water and sewage network in Poland
- 14 areas for upgrading water networks
- Ecol-Unicon water quality protection and amelioration products
Key elements of the new EU directive
Directive 2020/2184  sets minimum quality standards for water intended for consumption, i.e. drinking, cooking and other domestic purposes. The standards are set to protect us from contaminants and bacteria. The directive also increases the scope and tightens the test values for certain pollutants.
According to the new legislation, member states should ensure universal access to clean water. Strict limits are to encourage the public to drink tap water instead of bottled water. Tap water is also to be available for free or for a symbolic fee in restaurants or mass catering facilities.
The recommended solution is to install dispensers, fountains, spigots or drinking water stations wherever this is possible and useful. They should therefore appear, for example, in shopping malls, parks, markets, railway stations or airports.
Risk assessment, covering the entire water supply chain, is an extremely important element. The risk management system covers areas such as supply, water supply system and internal water supply system.
According to the EU estimates, universal access to high quality water could reduce consumption of bottled water by 17%. This in turn will translate into a reduction in plastic waste.
Condition of the water and sewage network in Poland
Over the past two decades, Poland has seen a major technological leap in improving water quality and construction of sewage networks. As a result, more than 90% of our country’s population already has access to mains water. Unfortunately, there are still about 3 million people without such an opportunity. The largest number of municipalities with the lowest level of connection is located in the Podkarpackie, Lubelskie and Małopolskie Voivodeships. There are also still areas for improvement in terms of investments, implementation of innovations, administrative solutions and digitalisation.
The Investment Programme has set the objective of improving the quality and reducing loss of water used for human consumption. The programme was drawn up by the Ministry of Infrastructure and assumes that in areas that are more than 95% piped, this should increase to 100%. In other areas it would be at least 95%.
The new EU water law entails not only changes in national law, but also investments that water and sewage companies have been preparing for over a year. Looking at the age and failure rate of the network, there are major needs in terms of reducing water losses and modernising as well as servicing the network. According to the various estimates, the necessary investments could amount to more than PLN 40 billion.
Modernisation and extension of the sewage and water supply system facilities of the Mrągowo agglomeration
14 areas for upgrading water networks
These are the most important areas of water network modernisation. They include:
- Water point recharge area – which includes available water resources, their effective conservation, resilience to climate change and the impact of agriculture and industry on water quality or shortages.
- Water extraction – intakes. These include any investment in upgrading, building and protecting intakes and wells.
- Water storage – measures to improve the technical condition of facilities, sanitation and monitoring of water quality and access to these facilities.
- Access to water – measures that improve access to water, including support for socially marginalised groups.
- Water treatment – improving technical conditions of facilities and technology to ensure the required water quality.
- Distribution network – constructing and upgrading network infrastructure, monitoring and modelling processes, minimising pollution and providing publicly accessible water points.
- Internal water supply networks – measures to modernise systems supplying water to buildings and to eliminate water quality problems resulting from inadequately constructed and operated water supply connections and installations.
- Resource efficiency and reducing water consumption by reusing water in the process and reducing losses, but also reducing energy consumption and using ‘green’ energy sources.
- Monitoring water quality and water-related diseases – are measures for certification, proficiency testing, the development of databases and information systems, and the establishment of a national reference laboratory.
- IT infrastructure including hardware and tools for databases, monitoring, modelling and information and communication with stakeholders.
- Risk management systems – introduction of Water Safety Plans.
- National Database – the creation of a database to record and monitor incidents, water quality, water availability and ultimately support risk management procedures.
- Physical and cyber security – systems for monitoring access to water supply infrastructure facilities, security, and the preparation and implementation of plans to efficiently manage emergencies.
- Knowledge – all activities in the education, competence and certification of those involved in the water supply process. It is also educational activities aimed at different groups of consumers to build responsibility for water, confidence in drinking tap water and reducing consumption of bottled water.
Over 25 years of experience – Ecol-Unicon’s water quality protection and amelioration products
Ecol-Unicon is a leading Polish manufacturer of water protection devices that has been promoting and supporting all water quality improvement projects for years. The company offers rainwater products such as retention tanks, separators and settling tanks. In addition, the portfolio also includes sewage treatment plants, pumping stations and dry-well pumping stations, as well as service, contracting and operation services for the construction and modernisation of water and wastewater facilities. Innovative products, professional engineering implementations and smart management of rainwater, sanitary and water supply network operations produce tangible environmental results.
The company’s flagship products are HYDROZONE retention tanks, which cater for all retention, treatment and use of rainwater and snowmelt. Another noteworthy product is the BUMERANG-SMART intelligent water and sewer monitoring and management system. Thanks to the use of this system, which is also available in a convenient app form, the user is able to view the most important parameters concerning the installation, such as the volume of the tank and how full it is. The system provides information on the announced rainfall and temperature, so the user also gains the possibility to realistically prepare his/her future actions, such as emptying the tank, preparing it for the upcoming rainfall.
Domestic Retention Technologies Project
Faced with climate change and the need to implement new solutions to water and sewerage issues, Ecol-Unicon, as one of 4 contractors, has been involved in the National Centre for Research and Development’s (NCBiR) research project ‘Domestic Retention Technologies’, which aims to create an innovative rainwater retention and treatment system to store rainwater, treat it and supply it back into the system for washing, laundry, cleaning and watering the garden, creating a closed circuit of water in the facility. This makes it possible to reduce the amount of water taken from the mains water supply and the amount of grey and black sewage discharged.
Working closely on the implementation of the project, Szymon Mielczarek, Ph.D., Development Project Manager at Ecol-Unicon, comments on the venture as follows: ” This project fits perfectly with the company’s mission and vision of acting for the environment. Thanks to such initiatives, we can develop our current water and wastewater treatment technology and implement new, innovative solutions and products. This will enable us to reduce the consumption of potable water in a household, office, school or other facility.”
Involvement in projects such as ‘Domestic Retention Technologies’ should therefore become one of the key activities of companies that, as in the case of Ecol-Unicon, work deeply to improve local water and climate conditions. It is extremely important that our actions reflect the company’s mission.