Sunday

3rd Jul 2022

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.

Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says

The European Parliament approved last week a non-binding resolution on illegal logging, calling to extend the EU public prosecutor's mandate to also cover environmental crime. The lead MEP on the file has called for urgent implementation.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us