compliance with quality standards
set by the Authority for four services
minutes average waiting time
at help desks and chance to book
an appointment with an operator
thousand analyses
carried out on Group drinking water,
1,100 per day, of which 63% on the
distribution network

Quality of drinking water

In 2018, to ensure control of the quality of water supplied, the Group’s laboratories in Emilia-Romagna, Triveneto and Marche performed 399,013 analyses on drinking water, including all the analyses performed for the aqueduct process as a whole. This amounts to an average of almost 1,100 analyses per day. Of these, 63% were carried out on samples collected in the distribution networks. Substantial stability continues in the relationship between the analyses carried out on the distribution network and those carried out on the plants, aimed at effectively preventing non-conformities.

Quality checks on the water used to produce water for drinking and for human consumption are governed by Italian Legislative Decrees 152/2006 and 31/2001, respectively.

The checks are carried out by the water service operator and the Local Health Authorities at the source sampling points, at the water treatment and accumulation plants, and along the intake and distribution networks.

Hera has developed a Group Control Plan which describes the sampling points and the analysis methods used (parameters and frequencies of the analyses). The Control Plan is developed on the basis of guidelines that focus on the water’s chemical, physical and bacteriological characteristics, so as to fully comply with legal requirements and ensure a top-quality product. In 2018, AcegasApsAmga revised its water quality monitoring programming to improve monitoring of the most critical parameters.

Water quality also means controlling the effectiveness of the treatment processes. For example, the water is checked for chlorites and trihalomethanes, which come from, respectively, the use of chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite as disinfectants. The concentration of chlorites and trihalomethanes in the distribution network is kept under constant control in line with the regulatory limits.

Since 2008, the average data recorded for the pH, total hardness, dry solids at 180 °C, chloride, fluoride, sodium, nitrate, nitrite and ammonium has been published on the Group’s website, listed by individual municipality, and updated every six months. Since 2012, this set of parameters has been extended to include four others: calcium, magnesium, sulphates, and total alkalinity. These 13 parameters are considered to be representative of the quality of the drinking water distributed and can be used to draw comparisons with the quality of bottled water on the market.

Starting from the second half of 2014, the set of parameters was further expanded with 6 additional parameters as required by ARERA: conductivity, potassium, arsenic, bicarbonate, residual chlorine and manganese. As such, 19 parameters are subject to publication, one more than the number determined by the Regulator.

Since 15 September 2012, the tap water label has been present in Hera’s bills as well as on its website. Customers can find the data on the quality of the water distributed by Hera in their municipality (updated every 6 months), directly on their bill. The communication concerns 165 municipalities in Emilia-Romagna where Hera manages the water distribution service and includes the values of 19 water quality parameters, compared with the regulatory limits (alkalinity from bicarbonates, total alkalinity, ammonium, arsenic, calcium, free chlorine, chloride, conductivity, pH, hardness, fluoride, magnesium, manganese, nitrate, nitrite, potassium, dry residue at 180 °C, sodium, and sulphate). Alongside the data, a message reminds customers that tap water is good, safe and better for the environment, and allows them to save Euro 270 per year. The AcegasApsAmga website includes water quality data for the municipalities served in the Padua and Trieste areas, which are updated constantly.

Since January 2009, all drinking water production plants in Romagna have been operated by Romagna Acque – Società delle Fonti, the company set up for this purpose by the local regional administrations of Romagna. As a result, the water distributed in the Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna and Rimini areas is in large part purchased wholesale from that company, and Hera’s involvement in quality is limited to operating the networks and the supplementary disinfection stations along the distribution networks.

The assessments of the quality of distributed drinking water, as compared to the quality of mineral water, are carried out based on the analytic parameters which are commonly surveyed at the representative sampling points of the aqueduct networks: pH, total hardness, dry residue at 180 °C, sodium, fluorides, nitrates, nitrite, chlorides, calcium, bicarbonate alkalinity, manganese, potassium, sulphate. The parameters chosen to measure the quality of distributed water refer primarily to the importance of distributing drinking water that contains a suitable amount of mineral salts.

Once again in 2018 the average values for Hera’s water are comparable with those of commercial mineral waters and that no exemptions were granted from compliance with the limits set by Italian Legislative Decree 31/2001. The only average result found by Hera, higher than that found on the labels of 17 mineral waters on the market, is nitrates in the territories of Modena, Padua and Rimini; the average value found in 2018 in the water distributed by Hera is in these cases below the regulatory limit of 68-70%.


Mineral waters (min-max)

Tap water limits

Leg. Dec. 31/2001






















Hardness (°F)












Dry solids at 180 °C (mg/l)












Sodium (mg/l)












Fluorides (mg/l)












Nitrates (mg/l)












Chlorides (mg/l)












* Recommended value.
Comparison carried out with the data provided on the labels of 17 widely available mineral waters. The data on drinking water refer to the averages of the analyses carried out according to the frequency and withdrawal points on the distribution network set forth in the control and monitoring plan for the water cycle.

If even a single parameter is not compliant with regulatory limits, Hera takes immediate action to restore compliance of the water (by washing pipes, checking disinfection, etc.), also based on the instructions of the Local Health Authorities. For hygiene, health and public safety reasons, municipalities may issue orders declaring that the water is not fit for drinking for specific periods of time. In these cases, it may be prohibited to use water for cooking and drinking, or particular precautions will need to be adopted (e.g. boiling in case of microbiological non-compliance), while in general the water can continue to be used for all other purposes.

In 2018, 34 orders were issued, affecting a total of approximately 3,000 inhabitants:

  • one order concerned an area of the Grizzana Morandi (Bologna) municipality and affected 37 inhabitants for 6 days;
  • two orders concerned the municipalities of Talamello and San Leo, in Rimini, and affected 42 inhabitants for 5 days;
  • 31 orders involved municipalities in the province of Pesaro-Urbino and affected about 3 thousand inhabitants for an average of 2 days.

In the area served by AcegasApsAmga, no orders were issued by mayors on the unsuitability of drinking water.

As to the presence of cement-asbestos pipes in the aqueduct network (see paragraph “Sustainable management of the water resources” for more data) note that asbestos was used in construction and other industrial sectors until the end of the 1980s, and was definitively banned in 1992. While it has been recognized that the inhalation of asbestos fibres causes serious respiratory illnesses, there is no evidence of toxicity linked to the ingestion of asbestos. In fact, current regulations on the quality of water for human consumption (Legislative Decree 31/2001) do not set limits for the presence of asbestos fibres. In particular, Ministerial Decree of 14 May 1996, annex 3, references a WHO (World Health Organization) document which states that “There is therefore no consistent, convincing evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health”. The WHO reiterated this stance in the 2011 update of its Guidelines on drinking water quality (fourth edition-World Health Organization 2011). European and Italian legislation is aligned with the position of the WHO and does not set limits for the eventual presence of asbestos in water destined for human consumption. In 2015, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Italian Higher Institute of Health) reiterated these positions once again in one of its statements in which, among other things, it states that: “On the basis of our current knowledge and the conclusions of the international institutions of reference, the water situation must not be regarded as an imminent risk for public health either in terms of eventual fibres ingested or as regards concentrations potentially transferred from the water to the air”.

In the same communication, the Italian Higher Institute of Health indicates, as the only reference limit, (not a parameter value) the one defined by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as 7 million fibres/litre for fibres longer than 10 µm.

In terms of monitoring, Hera carries out regular checks to determine if asbestos fibre is present in the water it distributes and the level of maintenance of the pipes. Every year since 2003, Hera has prepared and applied a specific Asbestos Control Plan which outlines the details of the sampling points that are most representative for the presence of asbestos cement, the frequencies and the analytical parameters to analyse. Over 257 inspections were carried out during 2018 and they confirm that most of the samples (over 95%) contain no asbestos fibres. In no case has the EPA limit of 7 million F/L been exceeded and even the highest value found in 2018 was 1,000 times lower than this limit. The water distributed by Hera has aggressiveness levels generally above 12 (non-aggressive with respect to the cement base).

For further details on the quality of tap water distributed by Hera, see the appointment with “In Buone Acque”, the report entirely dedicated to the quality of tap water that Hera has been publishing annually since 2009 with the collaboration of local health authorities and Romagna Acque.

The new technical quality of the water service

ARERA introduced the Integrated Water Service Technical Quality Regulation (RQTI) with resolution 917/17. The resolution requires monitoring:

  • 3 specific indicators concerning interruptions of aqueduct services; exceeding the corresponding standard values will result in automatic compensation being paid to users;
  • 6 macro-indicators to which a bonus/penalty system is associated, of which 3 concern the aqueduct service, 1 the sewage service and 2 the purification service; for these indicators the initial class positions have been defined with reference to the 2016 data and, accordingly, the maintenance or improvement objectives to be achieved in the 2018-2019 two-year period.

The bonus/penalty system will be operational from 2020 and will be defined in detail in the next regulatory measures. For access to this system, Resolution 917 provides for the possession of prerequisites relating to: a drinking water quality control system, the absence of urban areas included in European infringement procedures, minimum quality levels of measurement data (process and user data).

As regards the achievement of the maintenance/improvement objectives, several actions have been defined, including:

  • systematization of the methods for recording interruptions to aqueduct services and sewage flooding incidents;
  • extraordinary interventions for the replacement of user meters;
  • increase of the reclamation activities of the aqueduct networks;
  • increase of the renewal activities of the aqueduct connections;
  • detailed analysis of non-conformities and revision of the Analytical Control Plan (partial measures 2018 and further measures planned for 2019).

Application of the new Water Safety Plans

In 2018, the Water Safety Plans for four water supply zones for two aqueducts in the province of Bologna were completed: San Giovanni in Persiceto, industrial aqueduct of Imola, Imola e Dozza. In 2019, the approval process for these Security Plans is expected to start, and includes:

  • transmission by computer (through access to the cloud portal) to the Italian Higher Institute of Health;
  • investigation by the Italian Higher Institute of Health with possible requests for changes or additions;
  • conclusion of the investigation with a positive outcome;
  • final approval by the Ministry of Health.

Bearing in mind the date by which the Security Plans must be completed, presumably by 2025, and the large number of supply areas served by Hera (over 400), we must try to work to set up Security Plans by structure types assessing, at the same time, how to automate, as much as possible, the completion of check lists and risk matrices. In terms of priorities, we envisage gradually implementing the Plans for the most densely populated supply areas.

In 2018, for AcegasApsAmga, 224 check lists were collected on the entire aqueduct network of Trieste and Padua in order to assess the source of the risks that a dangerous event can generate and the related damage. The main hazard classes identified were: microbiological hazards, chemical hazards, physical hazards, radiological hazards and acceptability hazards.

To process the risk model, AcegasApsAmga prepared a business intelligence model that will support it in the processing the risk matrices. For the 2019-2020 two-year period AcegasApsAmga expects to:

  • identify the hazards and dangerous events;
  • implement the business intelligence model;
  • risk assessment;
  • identification of control and monitoring measures;
  • risk reassessment and identification of the priorities of the Water Safety Plan.