Accredia / Sustainability / Clean water and sanitation: the role of accreditation for SDGs

Clean water and sanitation: the role of accreditation for SDGs

09 June 2021

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

The SDG #6 of the Agenda ONU 2030 “Clean water and sanitation” confirms the importance of water and sanitation in the global political agenda. It addresses the sustainability of access to water and sanitation by focusing on the quality, availability and management of freshwater resources. While substantial progress has been made, billions of people – mostly in rural areas – still lack these basic services.

Some facts:

The individual targets of SDG 6 cover the entire water cycle and its interconnections, with the aim to assure by 2030:

6.1: provision of drinking water

6.2: sanitation and hygiene services

6.3: treatment and reuse of wastewater and ambient water quality

6.4: water-use efficiency and scarcity

6.5: integrated water resources management

6.6: protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems

6.a: international cooperation and capacity-building

6.b: local participation in water and sanitation management


Accreditation and conformity assessment support clean drinking water

One of the priorities for every human being is to have healthy and safety life, which is ensured through a healthy food, sanitation, and healthy environment. But, the main question is how do we know and how we can be sure that in our every day life we have a healthy food, clean water, good sanitation and healthy environment? The answers are simple: have a confidence in internationally recognized tool for conformity assessment under the symbol of accreditation.

Why accreditation and conformity assessment?

Accreditation is a worldwide recognized tool to demonstrate the competence, impartiality and reliability in the results from testing, calibration, inspection and certification issued by conformity assessment bodies. It performs independent evaluation of the conformity assessment bodies against recognised standards to carry out specific activities to ensure their integrity, impartiality and competence.

Conformity assessment provides a means for preventing unsafe, unhealthy or environmentally harmful products from entering the market place. Nowadays, the number of technical regulation, standards, testing and certification procedures is numerously set out by regulators in all countries. Generally, this are introduced to meet the requirements of quality and safety that consumers, businesses and consumers demand of products and services.

Compliance with food and water safety standards, good hygienic practices, sanitation, demonstrates that suppliers are meeting appropriate levels of safety, environmental performance, and animal welfare. But, that is not enough. For every country the first crucial condition to have clean water and healthy food is the following: to prescribe obligation in the national legislation to ensure to use accredited methods for testing according to EN ISO/IEC 17025:2018 standard for analyses, especially for some particularly microbiological and physico-chemical properties. Analyses of water must include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Streptococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, color, smell, temperature, PH-value, nitrates, ammonia, Iron, Chlorides, residual chlorine etc.

Laboratory analyses of samples of drinking water as well of the water used in the food industry for the manufacture, processing, storage or placing on the market and testing reports, must meet the national requirements and must ensure that policies and decision about the public health are based on reliable and accurate information.

Generally, only accredited testing of food and water can ensure the quality of goods and supply services.

The production and distribution of food and water is а complex chain of production and supplying, where a superior (strong) control is necessary to enhance that the food, the water and sanitation are safety and meet the requirements. The control is including all the circle: starting from the production processes through supply chain till the moment to be reach to the consumers. Samples, products, services, management systems or personnel can be evaluated against specified requirements by accredited laboratories, certification bodies, and inspection bodies. Only through this accredited conformity assessment the regulators, businesses and consumers can be sure that products and services are fit and safe for consumption against a standard, a code of practice and national legislation.


Case study #1: assuring the quality of water for human consumption in Italy

Guaranteeing water safety and quality is an essential matter in all countries, applicable to everything from plant treatment agents to natural mineral waters. Water sampling methods, in compliance with the standard ISO/IEC 17025 for the accreditation of testing laboratories, are applied in the Italian public water sector on reporting and monitoring to determine a variety of properties and contaminants, from mineral content to the level of bacteria and impurities.

In particular, in Italy the drinking water sector is regulated by Law Decree 31/2001, implementing Directive 98/83/CE on the quality of water intended for human consumption, and by the Law Decree of the Ministry of Health of June 14, 2017, implementing amendments introduced by the Directive UE 2015/1787.

Water for human consumption is defined as follows:

  • water intended for drinking or other domestic uses (preparation of food and drinks);
  • water used in the food industry for the manufacture, processing, storage or placing on the market of products intended for human consumption.

According to the decree, the water network manager is responsible for the quality of the water as far as the meter, while it is the responsibility of the administrator of the residence to ensure and maintain its potability from the meter onwards. For this reason, especially in the presence of tanks, softeners, centralized systems or autoclaves, it is necessary to periodically perform an analysis of the chemical and microbiological parameters of the drinking water as required by the regulations.

The most important novelty compared to the previous national rules is the introduction of mandatory accreditation according to the Italian version of the standard UNI CEI EN ISO/IEC 17025 for laboratories that conduct tests on water, which must be accompanied by a detailed description of the methods used.

For Accredia, the Italian Accreditation Body, the effect of this new provision was a 26% increase in extensions to new methods and the accreditation of 200 new laboratories. Currently there are 879 accredited laboratories in this sector, over 60% of the total, of which more than 50% perform at least 5 tests and 10% more than 20.

By implementing this new standard, Italian regulators can reduce their internal inspections and specialist assessment personnel, thus reducing costs, and they can target their inspections more effectively, also mitigating the risk of undesirable consequences.


Case study #2: improving drinking water monitoring in Croatia

Accreditation supports the drinking water monitoring in Croatia through the accreditation of drinking water testing laboratories that are further authorised by Croatian Ministry of Health (MoH) for drinking water monitoring. Croatian Institute of Public Health (CIPH) with its accredited laboratories coordinate monitoring and it is also one of the national contact points for SDG 6. Synergy of rolls of CIPH on drinking water monitoring and SDG 6 gives opportunity to identify the current public health needs of the population related to drinking water and anticipate future trends and provide preconditions for their effective management, with the main goal of assurance of safe drinking water delivery to all Croatian residents as well as preserving and improving the health of the population.

Croatian National legislation on drinking water quality is based on European Drinking Water Directive (DWD) which includes definition of monitoring programme and parameters (microbiological, chemical and indicator) that need to be measured in order to protect human health from the adverse effects of any pollution of water for human consumption. However, at some levels Croatian legislation is stricter than DWD and also proscribes measurements of parameters that are not proscribed by the DWD but according to national expert judge are important to monitor. Public health laboratories (20) are authorized by the MoH to analyse samples taken at consumers tap as a part of monitoring program that is defined by the CIPH and approved by the MoH. Laboratories need to be accredited according to HRN EN ISO/IEC:17025.

Conformity assessment of drinking water samples is extremely important for the protection of human health. When the conformity assessment is not prescribed by law, a binary statement for a simple acceptance rule according to ILAC-G8:09/2019 Guidelines on Decision Rules and Statements of Conformity is applied. Drinking water monitoring results shows that drinking water quality supplied through public water supply systems is safe for 87,8% of Croatian residents. However, small proportion of the residents (1,6%) are connected to small community water supply systems that deliver water that is very often microbiologically unsafe. Thus, in Croatia, as in many other countries it has been shown that small systems carry the greatest public health risk.

The independent drinking-water surveillance is an essential public health function. The further activities in Croatia will be related to improve effective drinking-water surveillance that will be aligned with risk-based principles, including prioritization of monitoring parameters and surveillance efforts based on water safety plan outcomes. The role of the accreditation is very important in this process, since reliable analytical results are base for any risk-based approach that aims to assure drinking water safety and public health.


Case study #3: assuring the functionality of drainage systems in Croatia

Croatian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development in 2011 started authorising companies for testing of water tightness and functionality of public drainage systems and constructions according to the Water Law, in order to assure that those systems minimalize possible contamination of waste in soil and water. The key request for authorisation of a company is a laboratory accredited according to the HRN EN ISO/IEC 17025 requirements for testing water tightness. In cooperation with the Ministry, Croatian Accreditation Agency (HAA) has extended the scope of its activities in this area in order to support government policy. At this point, almost all drainage systems have been tested by accredited laboratories.

In 2011., in order to support Water Law (Official Gazette No. 153/2009), Ministry published 2 ordinances:

  • Ordinance on special conditions for performing the activity of water tightness testing of buildings for drainage and wastewater treatment (Official Gazette No. 1/2011)
  • Ordinance on technical requirements for wastewater drainage structures, as well as deadlines for mandatory control of the correctness of drainage and wastewater treatment structures (Official Gazette No. 3/2011)

Ordinances defined frequency and methods for testing of drainage and wastewater treatment structures and requirements for legal entities who will be authorised for preforming those tests. Testing methods were defined as:

  • HRN EN 1610:2015 – for gravitational drainage systems
  • HRN EN 805:2005 – for pressurised drainage systems
  • HRN EN 1508:2007 – for drainage systems structures

Every new sewer system and every existing sewer system periodically has to be tested by authorised legal entity.

Key requirements for legal entities were laboratory accredited according to ISO/IEC 17025 by HAA or other ILAC MRA signatory. First accreditation was issued in 2009. In ordered to facilitate and harmonise assessment and scope of accreditation, HAA organised the Working Group whose members are representatives from HAA, HAA′s external technical assessors, Ministry, and accredited laboratories. Working Group has produced a document “Rules for accreditation of testing water supply and drainage systems”.

In 2020 Ministry changed Ordinance on special conditions for performing the activity of water tightness testing of buildings for drainage and wastewater treatment (Official gazette No. 9/2020) and added a new requirement for authorisation and that was accreditation for visual inspection of drainage systems according to HRN EN 13508-2:2011 standard.

At the moment, in the HAA′s Registry of accreditations, there are 34 accredited laboratories for testing of sewer systems and constructions, with the authorisation by the Ministry based on the accreditation certificate. Almost all drainage systems have been tested by accredited laboratories, which assures that they are functional and reduces chances of spills in soil and water systems.