SEATTLE — The Scandinavian country of Norway has made tremendous strides in improving the quality of its drinking water over the last few decades. Consistently rated one of the healthiest countries on Earth, Norway continues to make strides to ensure the availability of safe drinking water for its citizens. Water quality in Norway is a driving factor in its high life expectancy and low mortality rates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the baseline of Norway’s population using improved water and sanitation maintains a 100 percent figure. This high number is largely in thanks to a six-year endeavor to improve the nearly 1,000 waterworks in Norway that did not meet regulations in 1995.
Prior to the national overhaul of Norway’s water system, water, in general, was not given high priority. Due to the many natural water sources throughout the country, the regulation of water quality, by and large, took a backseat. The 1990s push to improve environmental conditions in Norway included regulating the aforementioned waterworks and ensuring that drinking water would meet national standards.
Norway accomplished this by improving water treatment plants and creating regulations to disinfect surface basin water sources. This joint effort improved water quality in Norway drastically, with safe and clean water reaching 800,000 more of its citizens.
While water quality in Norway has improved significantly due to the country’s environmental regulations, more can be done.
Leaking water pipelines are of notable concern in Norway. A fifth of these pipelines date to the 1940s and are at significant risk for leakage. Indeed, over 40 percent of Norway’s water leaks before it reaches the consumer, more than four times higher than neighboring Denmark. This is of particular concern due to these pipeline’s proximity to drainage lines; because the drainage lines are also susceptible to leaks, sewage often contaminates Norway’s drinking water. This may explain the mid-2000s outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases throughout the country, years after the implementation of safe drinking water regulations.
While 90 percent of Norway’s drinking water is regulated, 10 percent is not. If a water source supplies to fewer than 50 people, that water source is not regulated. Ensuring that these small water supplies contain the infrastructure to disinfect water will decrease the risk of waterborne illnesses such as E. coli.
In January 2017, Norway implemented new regulations regarding its drinking water. These not only regulate the quality of the country’s drinking water but also ensure safe delivery to the consumer. This regulation will require the improvement of Norway’s water infrastructure to ensure that all water is disinfected properly and is not susceptible to contamination from leaking drainage pipes.
– Eric Paulsen