It's municipality's duty to provide residents with safe drinking water

  • 2023-12-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Chancellor of Justice Ulle Madise has reminded Estonia's rural municipalities and cities that under the Water Act, they are the ones that must provide residents with quality drinking water, and if this obligation is not fulfilled, residents have the right to demand compensation from the local government for the damage incurred.

The chancellor of justice has received several applications from people concerned about access to safe drinking water. At the same time, she has no information that these people were left without safe drinking water due to their own negligence or inaction.

Madise said that if access to drinking water is blocked for any reason, the local authority must ensure that people are not left without clean drinking water. Among other things, the municipality has to find out what is preventing access to drinking water and how the situation can be remedied. The local authority must also inform residents about other options if they cannot get drinking water from a tap or well.

The chancellor of justice considers it important that the local government take appropriate measures to improve access to drinking water for vulnerable and marginalized groups when such need arises.

"If necessary, a public drinking water abstraction point must be established, taking into account local circumstances. In winter, for example, water may freeze in an outdoor drinking water abstraction unit," she said. According to the recommendations of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, a public drinking water abstraction point should not be more than one kilometer from a person's home. 

"If a local authority has failed to fulfil its obligations to protect drinking water or ensure its availability and people suffer damage as a result, they have the right to claim compensation from the local authority. This means that if people have taken care of the supply of their own drinking water and have borne costs, they can bring a claim against the local authority for compensation for material damage," Madise explained. She added that it is also possible to claim compensation for the costs and non-material damage incurred as a result of damage to one's health caused by the unavailability of clean drinking water.