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Accredia Italy: Accreditation for potable water

Italy, like most countries, is facing increasingly grave environmental and climate crises, which can affect the availability of potable water. There are also issues with partly obsolete water infrastructure, which lead to leaks and dispersion. The availability and sustainable management of water and of health and hygiene structures, have become one of the 17 objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, and the European legislator intervened on the topic with the EU Directive 2020/2184. The EU Directive was implemented in Italy in March 2023, through Legislative Decree 18/2023 (the Decree).

The Decree was developed thanks to an extensive partnership between institutions, public and private stakeholders and Accredia, the Italian Accreditation Body. Federico Pecoraro, Deputy Director of Accredia’s Testing Laboratories Department, underlined the important role of tests carried out under accreditation: “In this area, accreditation continues to be a valid tool used by the authorities to establish the level of competence, impartiality and good organizational functioning of those who must ensure a high level of protection of public interests.”

Italian law and EU regulation
Water intended for human consumption can be processed or non-processed water used for drinking, preparing food and drinks or other uses, supplied through a distribution network or in tanks, bottles or containers. This also includes water used for food production and other substances for human consumption, but natural mineral waters are excluded. With the aim of ensuring healthy and clean water, Legislative Decree 18/2023 introduced important innovations for operators of potable water systems, for people involved in water treatment, and for citizens. Accreditation was already mandatory in line with the previous Decree of the Ministry of Health of 14 June 2017, but with the Legislative Decree of 2023 it has become central.

In this way, the role of accreditation for testing laboratories according to the standard ISO/IEC 17025 “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories” was strengthened in the areas involving accredited tests on water and the certification of materials in contact with water, as well as management systems of potable water companies and the inspection of distribution networks. Article 6 of the Decree – “General obligations for a risk-based approach to water safety” explains how this approach is aimed at covering “the entire potable water supply chain, including compliance with the specifications in article 5″, and to guarantee “the continuous exchange of information between the operators of potable water distribution systems and the competent authorities in health and environmental matters.”

Accreditation of tests conducted on water
Accreditation of tests on tap water guarantees its healthiness and increases the competences of those who have a key role in the protection, control and monitoring of water resources and their natural environments. Accredited tests guarantee the safety and effectiveness of periodic monitoring of water quality by water service operators, i.e. anyone who supplies water intended for human consumption to third parties.

Out of a total of 1,353 testing laboratories accredited by Accredia (as of 31 December 2023), approximately 60% also conduct tests on water for human consumption. The Decree defined a new list of parameter values to evaluate the quality of water, determined by means of tests carried out by laboratories accredited by Accredia according to ISO/IEC 17025.

Accreditation to certify chemical reagents
The Decree also introduced important innovations regarding the so-called ReMaf, i.e. the chemical reagents and active and passive filtering materials to be used in the processing of water for human consumption. By 12 January 2036 the ReMaf will have to be certified under accreditation and subsequently authorized by the National Center for Water Safety (CeNSiA) and registered in the AnTeA system, in order to be placed on the market.

From a technical point of view, ReMaF are certified by accredited bodies that perform periodic inspections of the production plants, taking samples to be analysed and, for the analyses necessary for certification, they rely on accredited testing laboratories.