An important strategy for maintaining drinking water quality standards is the provision of information to the consumers concerned, enabling public monitoring of water quality and consumer involvement in standards issues.
Article 2(11) of the Draft Protocol on Water and Health (1999) to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992), states: "The public" means one or more natural or legal persons, and, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organizations or groups.
Agencies which provide drinking water to the general population are being increasingly called upon to provide annual reports on the quality of the water they supply. In 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed regulations which would require suppliers nationwide to provide customers with annual reports on what is in their drinking water and whether it meets Federal health standards.
Article 10 of the Draft Protocol on Water and Health (1999) to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992), states: (1) each Party shall take steps within the framework of its legislation to make available to the public such information as is held by public authorities and is reasonably needed to inform public discussion of: (a) The establishment of targets and of target dates for their achievement and the development of water-management plans in accordance with article 6; (b) The establishment, improvement or maintenance of surveillance and early-warning systems and contingency plans in accordance with article 8; (c) The promotion of public awareness, education, training, research, development and information in accordance with article 9. (2) Each Party shall ensure that public authorities, in response to a request for other information relevant to the implementation of this Protocol, make such information available within a reasonable time to the public, within the framework of national legislation. (3) The Parties shall ensure that information referred to in article 7, paragraph 4, and paragraph 1 of this article shall be available to the public at all reasonable times for inspection free of charge, and shall provide members of the public with reasonable facilities for obtaining from the Parties, on payment of reasonable charges, copies of such information.
Customers are entitled to know, which lakes, aquifers or rivers the water came from; what contaminants were in the water and whether the amounts exceed health standards; what health risks are posed when health standards are exceeded, and what violations and enforcement actions have been taken against the water supplier during the year.
The water suppliers claim too much information only creates confusion and unnecessary concern among consumers, and incurs additional costs.