Risk governance of potential emerging risks to drinking water quality: Analysing current practices

Hartmann, Julia; van der Aa, Monique; Wuijts, Susanne; Husman, Ana Maria de Roda; van der Hoek, Jan Peter

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY, 84 97-104; 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.02.015 JUN 2018


The presence of emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment may affect human health via exposure to drinking water. And, even if some of these emerging contaminants are not a threat to human health, their presence might still influence the public perception of drinking water quality. Over the last decades, much research has been done on emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment, most of which has focused on the identification of emerging contaminants and the characterisation of their toxic potential. However, only limited information is available on if, and how, scientific information is implemented in current policy approaches. The opportunities for science to contribute to the policy of emerging contaminants in drinking water have, therefore, not yet been identified.

A comparative analysis was performed of current approaches to the risk governance of emerging chemical contaminants in drinking water (resources) to identify any areas for improvement. The policy approaches used in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the state of Minnesota were analysed using the International Risk Governance Council framework as a normative concept. Quality indicators for the analysis were selected based on recent literature. Information sources used were scientific literature, policy documents, and newspaper articles.

Subsequently, suggestions for future research for proactive risk governance are given. Suggestions include the development of systematic analytical approaches to various information sources so that potential emerging contaminants to drinking water quality can be identified quickly. In addition, an investigation into the possibility and benefit of including the public concern about emerging contaminants into the risk governance process was encouraged.


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