Tuesday

19th Jan 2021

Infographic

Europe's water quality falls short

  • Only 40 percent of rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters reach the ecologically acceptable standard outlined in the European directive on water (Photo: EUobserver)

Due to pollution, the majority of European rivers, lakes and estuaries fall below the minimum environmental standards, a report by the European Environment Agency reveals.

According to the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) on water quality in Europe, only 40 percent of rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters reach the ecologically acceptable standard outlined in the European directive on water.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Adopted in 2000, the directive provides a framework for the evaluation, management and improvement of water resources in the EU.

It is intended to safeguard health, water supplies, ecosystems and biodiversity, and was supposed to oblige EU member states to reach satisfactory water quality standards by 2015.

The majority of countries, however, are still far from meeting those standards.

Globally, estuaries are the most polluted zones (less than 29 percent of their water is of "good" or "high" quality), while about half of lakes overall (49.5 percent) are of better ecological status.

While the share of surface waters with "good" or "high" status hasn't markedly changed in recent years (37 percent of the total), the number of those where the quality is unsatisfactory has risen from 48.5 percent to 59 percent, due in part to the increased number of streams and bodies of water evaluated.

Estonia, Slovakia and Romania form the trio of countries which lead the ranking for "good" or "high" status rivers, while Poland, Luxembourg and Germany are at the bottom of the ranking.

As far as lakes are concerned, it is in Austria, followed by Sweden and Estonia, where we find the highest number of "good" or "high" status water bodies, while the Netherlands, Poland again, and Romania, are at the bottom of the ranking.

The main pollutants present in surface waters are mercury, as well as residues from pesticides and wastewater treatment facilities.

The EEA nevertheless notes some improvements with regard to the presence of isolated polluting substances, which "shows that member states are making progress in tackling the sources of contamination."

When it comes to groundwater, the water quality is clearly higher on average (74 percent are, from the chemical perspective at least, of satisfactory quality).

The main source of pollution for groundwaters are nitrates and pesticides used in agriculture, as well as liquid discharges not connected to the sewer system, and abandoned industrial sites.

The main sources of ecological pressure on rivers and surface water bodies are, in order of importance: modifications in the morphology of rivers and lakes (40 percent of rivers and lakes affected); various sources of pollution arising from agriculture and precipitations (38 percent of rivers and water bodies affected); point source pollution (18 percent of rivers and surface water bodies affected), and extraction (seven percent of rivers and water bodies affected).

The report is based on measures taken by each country on 111,000 rivers and water bodies (80 percent are rivers; 16 percent are lakes, and 4 percent are estuaries or coastal waters), and 13,400 groundwaters between 2015 and 2018.

Author bio

The European Data Journalism Network, EDJNet, is a platform for data-driven news on European affairs in up to 12 languages brought to you by a consortium of media and data journalists from all over Europe, which includes EUobserver.

Infographic

Top 100 European places where Dieselgate 'kills' most

In Europe, more than a third of those killed each year by toxic particulate matter - associated with unlawful diesel emissions exceeding the EU limits - live in about 100 conurbations, mainly in Italy, France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain.

Magazine

Copenhagen harbour swimming

Copenhagen harbour, like many of its kind, used to stink of oil and garbage. Now, people swim in canals around the parliament, passing shoals of fish and jellyfish.

EU's 2021 fishing quotas to exceed scientific advice

EU minister for fisheries have agreed on fishing opportunities for 2021, with provisional quotas for the fish stocks shared with the UK. However, experts warned that some of these quotas will lead to overfishing "with detrimental effects on fish populations".

MEPs push for limited 'right-to-repair' on consumer devices

The MEPs's report asked the EU Commission to "consider" labelling products and services according to their durability and estimated lifespan - but only to examine so-called "planned obsolescence." The parliament plenary will vote in November.

News in Brief

  1. EU to set up sharing mechanism for Covid-19 vaccines
  2. Poll: Europeans believe China to eclipse US on world stage
  3. New Covid variant found in Bavaria, Germany
  4. Will Italian government survive senate vote?
  5. UK to probe British Virgin Islands lawlessness
  6. Ice-hockey drops 2021 Belarus world cup
  7. EU's euro-strategy bodes ill for City of London
  8. EU vaccine-refuseniks could face travel problems

Livestream

Live: Join the Nordic climate debate 'Choosing Green'

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled climate negotiations, work has not stopped. The 'Choosing Green' debate will address some of the most important and most complex key areas relating to the global green transition. Live on EUobserver from 10:00 (CET).

Green Deal

Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

For European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, the Common Agricultural Policy has to answer to "higher expectations" on climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?
  2. Business as usual for EU and Russia, despite Navalny
  3. First look at EU's new '21st Century Bauhaus' project
  4. Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees
  5. Tackling frozen conflicts in the EU's own neighbourhood
  6. How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history
  7. Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw
  8. EU's AI military strategy poses 'threat to Europeans'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us