Status of risk-based approach and national framework for safe drinking water in small water supplies of the Nordic water sector

Maria J. Gunnarsdottir*, Sigurdur M. Gardarsson, Anna Charlotte Schultz, Hans Jörgen Albrechtsen, Lisbeth Truelstrup Hansen, Kim Steve Gerlach Bergkvist, Pekka M. Rossi, Björn Klöve, Mette Myrmel, Kenneth M. Persson, Magnus Eriksson, Jamie Bartram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Reliable safe water supply is a pillar of society and a key to public health. The Nordic countries have an abundance of clean fresh water as a source for drinking water supplies. They have followed developments in safeguarding water, both the recommendations of the World Health Organization framework for safe drinking water and European legislation. Worldwide, including the Nordic countries, small water supplies are less compliant with water safety regulation. The forthcoming EU directive on drinking water require risk-based approaches and improved transparency on water quality. This research looks at the Nordic frameworks for safe water supply, with emphasis on risk-based approaches and smaller systems. We analyzed the legal frameworks for safe water, the structure of the water sector across the Nordic countries and explored how prepared these countries are to meet these requirements. Our findings show that, while legal requirements are mostly in place, delivery of information to the public needs to be improved. Most Nordic countries are in the process of implementing risk-based management in large and medium size water supplies, whereas small supplies are lagging. We conclude that a key to success is increased training and support for small supplies. We suggest wider adoption of the Nordic model of cooperation with benchmarking of safe water for all to transfer knowledge between the countries. This work provides insights into challenges and opportunities for the Nordic countries and provides insights relevant to countries worldwide in their effort towards realization of SDG Target 6.1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113627
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier GmbH

Other keywords

  • Drinking water
  • Framework for safe drinking water
  • Risk-based approach
  • Water safety plan
  • Water supply


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