Europe's Water Quality Falls Below Par

Europe's Water Quality Falls Below ParEurope's Water Quality Falls Below Par

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 on water quality in Europe, only 40% of rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters reach the ecologically acceptable standard outlined in the European directive on water, the EU observer reported.

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

  A Majority Lagging Behind

The majority of countries, however, are still far from meeting those standards. Globally, estuaries are the most polluted zones (less than 29% of their water is of "good" or "high" quality), while about half of lakes overall (49.5%) are of better ecological status.

While the share of surface waters with "good" or "high" status has not markedly changed in recent years (37% of the total), the number of those where the quality is unsatisfactory has risen from 48.5% to 59%, 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 rankings for "good" or "high" status rivers, while Poland, Luxembourg and Germany are at the bottom of the rankings.

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 rankings.

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% are, from the chemical perspective at least, of satisfactory quality).

The main sources of pollution for groundwater are nitrates and pesticides used in agriculture, as well as liquid discharges not connected to the sewer system, and abandoned industrial sites. The report is based on measures taken by each country on 111,000 rivers and water bodies (80% are rivers; 16% are lakes, and 4% are estuaries or coastal waters), and 13,400 groundwaters between 2015 and 2018.

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