Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

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.

MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule

The gas-boiler industry is pushing for hydrogen to be allowed to heat homes — but as well as being riskier for explosions and exacerbating asthma, experts dub domestic hydrogen 'a dangerous distraction'.

Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by another 0.5 percent to a 14-year high, and expects to hike rates by another half percent in March. But what does that mean for the green transition?

Opinion

The return of Lula means now is the time for EU-Mercosur deal

The EU must realise the need for a trade agreement with Mercosur. The timing has never been better. The recent election of the president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, marks a fresh start to move forward on the Mercosur Agreement.

Latest News

  1. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  2. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  3. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  5. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  6. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule
  7. The man who won't stop filing info requests until every EU doc is public
  8. EU hands Libya coast guard boats ahead of migration summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us