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European Citizens' Initiative

Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!

Submission and examination

Right2Water was the first European Citizens' Initiative having gathered the required number of signatories. It was submitted to the Commission on 20 December 2013. See press release.

The organisers met with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on 17 February 2014. See press release.

A public hearing took place at the European Parliament on 17 February 2014.

The Commission adopted a Communication on 19 March 2014 setting out the actions it intends to take in response to the initiative. See press release.

Answer of the European Commission

The Commission committed, in particular, to taking the following actions:

  • reinforcing implementation of EU water quality legislation, building on the commitments presented in the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) and the Water Blueprint;
  • launching an EU-wide public consultation on the Drinking Water Directive, notably in view of improving access to quality water in the EU;
  • improving transparency for urban wastewater and drinking water data management and explore the idea of benchmarking water quality;
  • bringing about a more structured dialogue between stakeholders on transparency in the water sector;
  • cooperating with existing initiatives to provide a wider set of benchmarks for water services;
  • stimulating innovative approaches for development assistance (e.g. support to partnerships between water operators and to public-public partnerships);promoting sharing of best practices between Member States (e.g. on solidarity instruments) and identifying new opportunities for cooperation;
  • advocating universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a priority area for Sustainable Development Goals.

Official documents related to the decision:


This section provides regularly updated information on the follow-up actions that have been taken by the Commission and other institutions following the Commission's response.

Legislative action:

  • As a first step following the European Citizens' Initiative Right2Water, an amendment to the Drinking Water Directive aimed at improving the monitoring of drinking water across Europe came into force on 28 October 2015 (see press release).
  • A proposal for the revision of the Directive on drinking water was adopted by the Commission on 01 February 2018. This proposal, in reaction to the initiative, foresees inter alia an obligation for Member States to improve access to water and ensure access for vulnerable and marginalised groups (see press release).The proposal builds upon the evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive carried out in 2016 and the public consultation on the Quality of Drinking Water in the EU carried out in 2014.  On 16 December 2020, the European Parliament formally adopted the revised Drinking Water Directive. The Directive entered into force on 12 January 2021. Member States had until 12 January 2023 to transpose it into national legislation.
  • A proposal for a regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse was adopted by the Commission in May 2018. The proposed rules aim at stimulating and facilitating water reuse in the EU for agricultural irrigation. The Regulation based on this proposal entered into force in June 2020. The new rules apply from 26 June 2023.
    Further information on this initiative can be found on the dedicated Commission website.
  • In January 2024, the Commission adopted new minimum hygiene standards for materials and products that come into contact with drinking water. They will apply as of 31 December 2026 to materials and products used in new installations, or when older installations are renovated or repaired. These hygiene standards are an important milestone in the implementation of the recast Drinking Water Directive Therefore, their implementation also responds to the 'Right2Water' initiative.
  • Further information on rules on drinking water can be found on the dedicated Commission website.

Implementation and review of existing EU legislation:

  • Subsequent implementation reports on the Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive were published in 2015, 2019 and 2021. For further information, see the dedicated website.
  • The Commission prepares a review of the Water Framework Directive in line with the requirements of Article 19(2) of the Directive.

The European Pilar of Social Rights:

  • The European Pillar of Social Rights proclaimed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17/11/2017 foresees an explicit reference to the right of citizens to water and sanitation under principle 20 – "Access to essential services".

Transparency and benchmarking:

  • Stakeholder meetings on benchmarking of water quality and services took place on 09/09/2014 and 12/10/2015 in Brussels. This stakeholder dialogue is one of the actions announced in the Communication and aims to increase transparency on performance of water and sanitation services. All related documents can be found in the repository.

Development cooperation and sustainable development:

  • The Commission identified 'water and sanitation' as a key priority area for the post-2015 development framework in its Communication "A Decent life for all : from vision to collective action" (COM(2014) 335) adopted on 02/06/2014. The EU efforts have substantially contributed to maintaining the universal access to water and sanitation in the list of Sustainable Development Goals in the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" (Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all), adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25/09/2015.
  • The European Commission is also working with different partners to stimulate innovative approaches for development assistance (e.g. support to partnerships between water operators and to public-public partnerships), promote sharing of best practices between Member States (e.g. on solidarity instruments) and identify new opportunities for cooperation. This dialogue is taking place in dedicated workshops and international fora. Europaid has organised a workshop on "Innovative partnerships and financing mechanisms" as ways to promote access to drinking water and sanitation in developing countries. This event also aimed to explore the potential role of EU actors and institutions in encouraging water cooperation and the sharing of best practices. Commissioner Mimica also highlighted the EU commitment on this issue during the Thematic session on "Innovative financing for small and decentralized water and sanitation operators and actors" at the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea.

More information

  • The European Parliament adopted an own-initiative report on the follow up to the European citizens' initiative Right2Water on 08/09/2015.
  • At its plenary session meeting on 15/10/2014, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion on the Commission's Communication in reply to the Right2Water initiative.
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