Status of Small Water Systems in Nordic Countries

Gunnarsdottir MJ, Persson KM, Andradottir HO, Gardarsson SM. Status of small water supplies in the Nordic countries: Characteristics, water quality and challenges. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2017 Aug 24. pii: S1438-4639(17)30391-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.08.006.

Access to safe water is essential for public health and is one of the most important prerequisites for good living and safe food production. Many studies have shown that non-compliance with drinking water quality standards in small water supply systems is much higher than in large systems. Nevertheless, people served by small water supply systems have the right to the same level of health protection. Actions are therefore needed to improve the situation. The objective of the present study was to carry out a baseline analysis of the situation in the Nordic region and provide recommendations for governmental policy and actions. Data were gathered on number of water supplies, population served, compliance with regulations and waterborne disease outbreaks from various sources in the Nordic countries. The collected data showed that there are about 12500 regulated water supplies, 9400 of which serve fewer than 500 persons. The number of unregulated and poorly regulated supplies is unknown, but it can be roughly estimated that these serve 10% of the Nordic population on a permanent basis or 2.6 million people. However, this does not tell the whole story as many of the very small water supplies serve transient populations, summerhouse dwellers and tourist sites, with many more users. Non-compliance regarding microbes is much higher in the small supplies. The population weighted average fecal contamination incidence rate in the Nordic region is eleven times higher in the smaller supplies than in the large ones, 0.76% and 0.07%, respectively. Registered waterborne disease outbreaks were also more frequent in the small supplies than in the large ones.

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