Access to safe drinking water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection. Diseases related to contamination of drinking water constitute a major burden on human health. Interventions to improve the quality of drinking water provide significant benefits to health.
In Stockholm, in 1999, it was agreed that future guidelines for drinking water, wastewater and recreational water should integrate assessment of risk, risk management options and exposure control elements within a single framework with embedded quality targets (see WHO guidelines for drinking water quality). Following this approach, the assessment of risk is not a goal in its own right, but rather a basis for decision making. The framework for safe drinking water and the recommended approach for regulations, policies and programmes are based on this overall framework, known as the Stockholm Framework.
The great majority of evident water-related health problems are the result of microbial (bacterial, viral, protozoan or other biological) contamination. Nevertheless, an appreciable number of serious health concerns may occur as a result of the chemical contamination of drinking water. It is very important, that the potential health consequences of microbial contamination are permanently controlled and never be compromised.
A preventive integrated management approach with collaboration of all relevant agencies is the preferred approach to ensuring drinking water safety. Drinking water suppliers are at all times responsible for the quality and safety of the water that they produce. Surveillance of drinking water quality can be defined as “the continuous and vigilant public health assessment and review of the safety and acceptability of drinking water supplies” (WHO, 1976).