How ANSES contributes to water quality

Role of the Agency in the field of drinking and environmental water

The supply and treatment of drinking water has made a considerable contribution to public health, and to social and economic development. The security and safety of water supplies, for whatever use, are vital in underpinning public health, and the Agency contributes by assessing water-related health risks to assist the work of the authorities.

The supply and treatment of drinking water has made a considerable contribution to public health, and to social and economic development. As a result, whether intended for foods, drinking, use in the home, or leisure (swimming, etc.), water is one of the most closely monitored products on the market. Water quality remains a primary concern for both the public and the authorities, especially regarding emerging compounds (drug residues, endocrine disruptors, etc.) that new analytical processes can detect as traces, the growth of vulnerable populations and the appearance of new practices (recycling treated wastewater, etc.).

The Agency contributes to the protection of public health via its water-related activities combining expert appraisal, science watch and research, concerning:

  • water intended for human consumption: public supply systems (tap water), bottled water (spring water, natural mineral water and water made drinkable through treatment) and private well-water used for drinking;
  • water used in food production (in collaboration with other units of the Agency): drinking water for farm animals, water used in the food processing industry as a food ingredient or to wash food;
  • water used for leisure purposes (bathing sites and swimming pools);
  • water from other sources whose use may pose a risk for human health: wastewater, recycling of treated wastewater, desalination of sea water, rainwater collection, etc.

To carry out these missions, the Agency is aided by:

  • the Water Risk Assessment unit of the Risk Assessment Department;
  • collective expert assessment from the Expert Committee on water and its various working groups;
  • scientific and technical support from the Agency's laboratories, particularly the Nancy Laboratory for Hydrology;
  • the other Assessment and Methodology Support units of the Risk Assessment Department.

the Research and Science Watch Department which, by means of the calls for projects that it issues each year as part of the Environmental and Occupational Health research programme, supports the Agency's research in these fields.

The Agency's missions:

  • assessing the health risks for humans associated with the presence of microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa, viruses, yeasts and moulds, etc.) or inorganic and organic chemical contaminants of natural and/or man-made origin, including by-products of disinfection (nitrates, chromium, benzene, human and veterinary drug residues, trihalomethanes, etc.) in water (water resources, drinking water, water for leisure purposes, wastewater, etc.);
  • assessing the safety and effectiveness of products and processes used to treat water intended for human consumption (membranes, ion exchange resins,reactors fitted with ultra-violet radiation lamps for disinfection, filter media, etc.) and swimming pool water (dechlorinators, etc.);
  • assessing the safety of equipment and objects used in permanent facilities for the production,  treatment and distribution of water intended for human consumption (nickel, chromium or tin plating, for example);
  • conducting research in relation to water (studies of disinfection by-products in drinking water systems, evaluation of the stability of packaging materials used for bottled water, etc.);
  • assessing changes to practices that have emerged under sustainable development policies (installation of renewable energy systems in catchment protection zones used for the production of water intended for human consumption, modification of treatment sectors with the recirculation of filter-washing water, recycling of treated wastewater, etc.) and water scarcity policies (desalination of sea water, etc.);
  • participating in the drawing up of regulations, standards and technical guidelines, at French, international and European level.

In its capacity as a National Reference Laboratory, the Nancy Laboratory for Hydrology can be asked by the French government to assess and clarify laboratory analysis results that are non-compliant with standards or which contradict each other, and to carry out national analysis campaigns on emerging pollutants.