No 8/2012

European waters — assessment of status and pressures


Cover design: EEA

Cover photos © Peter Kristensen

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ISBN 978-92-9213-339-9

ISSN 1725-9177


© EEA, Copenhagen, 2012

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The report is based on data delivered by the Member States via the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) up to May 2012 and in some cases information available in digital version of RBMPs. Member States and Stakeholders comments to the draft technical reports on ecological and chemical status and pressures and hydromorphology during the consultation in February and March 2012 have been included as far as possible. Where data are available, it has been dealt with, and is presented, to the best of our knowledge. Nevertheless, inconsistencies and errors cannot be ruled out.

The report contain sentences and paragraphs that is partly copy and paste of text from the multitude of documents produced on the WFD (Commission and national WFD guidance documents, RBMPs and Article 5 reports, etc.). Sources have been acknowledged in these cases.REG.NO.DK-000244

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European waters — assessment of status and pressures


Acronyms and abbreviations.......................................................................................5

Acknowledgements..................................................................................................... 6

Executive summary ....................................................................................................7

1 Introduction......................................................................................................... 12

1.1 EEA 2012 'State of Europe's water' reports...........................................................12

1.2 European water policies ....................................................................................15

2 Data sources, methodology and uncertainties......................................................18

2.1 Data sources....................................................................................................18

2.2 Methodology....................................................................................................19

2.3 Improved knowledge, but ambiguous results due to data gaps and

methodology issues ..........................................................................................22

3 Trends in status of and pressures affecting waters up to the first RBMPs.............23

3.1 Trends in water quality and pollution ..................................................................23

3.2 Improved wastewater treatment.........................................................................24

3.3 Eutrophication and diffuse pollution.....................................................................28

3.4 Hydromorphological pressures and impacts .........................................................31

3.5 Conclusion and summary of results.....................................................................36

4 Ecological status and pressures............................................................................ 37

4.2 Main pressures and impacts affecting ecological status for all water categories..........40

4.3 Designation of heavily modified and artificial water bodies......................................46

4.4 Ecological status, pressures and impacts across Member States and sea regions.......48

5 Chemical status.................................................................................................... 54

5.1 Introduction and background .............................................................................54

5.2 European overview of chemical status ................................................................54

5.3 Chemical status by Member State and RBD .........................................................56

5.4 Legislation continues to play an important role but challenges remain......................61

6 Protection of Europe's aquatic ecosystems and their services..............................63

6.1 Joint benefits of coordinated nature conservation and water management................63

6.2 Relevant aquatic habitats in the Natura 2000 network ...........................................64

6.3 Conservation status of aquatic habitats and species...............................................66

6.4 Most frequent pressures affecting aquatic habitats................................................68

6.5 Habitats and Water Framework Directives' measures.............................................68

6.6 Conclusions and summary..................................................................................72



European waters — assessment of status and pressures

7 Challenges for achieving good status of waters....................................................73

7.1 Current trends and future challenges...................................................................73

7.2 Objectives and current goals for achieving good status..........................................74

7.3 Possible solutions and measures.........................................................................77

7.4 Measures for reducing pollution..........................................................................77

7.5 Restoring altered habitats and reducing hydromorphological pressures ....................79

7.6 Further considerations for the next phase of RBM planning.....................................86

8 References........................................................................................................... 895 Acronyms and abbreviations European waters — assessment of status and pressures

Acronyms and abbreviations

AWB Artificial water body

BHDs Birds and Habitats Directives

BOD Biochemical oxygen demand

CAP Common Agricultural Policy

DDT Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane

DEHP Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

EEA European Environmental Agency

EFTA European Free Trade Association

Eionet European Information and Observation Network

EQS Environmental Quality Standards

ETC/ICM European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters

ETC/BD European Topic Centre on Nature and Biodiversity

EU European Union

GEP Good ecological potential

GES Good ecological status

HMWB Heavily modified water body

IAS Invasive alien species

NGO Non-governmental organisation

NIS Non-indigenous species

NREAP National renewable energy action plan

NWRM Natural water retention measure

PAHs Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

RBD River basin district

RBMP River Basin Management Plan

REACH Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals

SCI Site of Community Importance

SPA Special Protection Area

SWMI Significant Water Management Issue

TBT Tributyltin

UWWT Urban Waste Water Treatment (Directive)

WB Water body

WFD Water Framework Directive

WFD-CIS Water Framework Directive Common Implementation Strategy

WISE The Water Information System for Europe



European waters — assessment of status and pressures


EEA lead author: Peter Kristensen;

EEA: Beate Werner, Trine Christiansen, Rob Collins, Constanηa Belchior, Bo Jacobsen;

EEA's European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters (ETC/ICM);

Anne Lyche Solheim and Kari Austnes (NIVA);

Vνt Kodeš, Silvie Semaradova, Hana Prchalovα, Renata Filippi, Anita Kόnitzer (CENIA);

Monika Peterlin (IWRS);

Janos Feher (Vituki);

Theo Prins, Claudette Spiteri (Deltares);

EEA's European Topic Centre on Biodiversity and Nature (ETC/BD);

Marita Arvela, Jιrτme Bailly Maitre, Dominique Richard, Sophie Condι, Douglas Evans, Lenka Jandova, Alena Dostalova, Michael Hoŝek (ETC/BD).

© Peter Kristensen7 Executive summary European waters — assessment of status and pressures

Executive summary

EEA 2012 'State of Europe's water' assessments

2012 is the European year of water in which the European Commission published its 'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's waters' (referred to hereafter as the Blueprint) comprising reviews of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (2000/60/EC), water scarcity and drought and adaptation to climate change policies. To accompany and inform the blueprint, throughout 2012 the European Environment Agency (EEA) produced a set of reports on the state of Europe's water. The reports are developed in close cooperation and coordination with the assessment of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment (Environment DG) of the River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and other Commission work preparing the Blueprint.

The first reporting of the RBMPs under the WFD was due at the end of 2009. Most Member States (23 of 27) have reported their RBMPs and delivered an enormous amount of data on status, pressures and measures to the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) WFD database. The report European waters — assessment of status and pressures is based on an assessment by the EEA of the RBMPs and data reported by Member States. The information in the RBMPs, together with other related sources of information, has been analysed to establish an assessment of the status of and pressures affecting Europe's waters. This work by the EEA reflects the cooperation with the Commission on the assessment of implementation of the WFD as laid out in Article 18 of the WFD according to which:

'The EU Commission shall publish a report on the implementation of this directive at the latest 12 years after the date of entry into force of this directive (two years after the Member States have delivered the RBMPs). The report shall among others include the following:

• a review of progress in the implementation of the directive;

• a review of the status of surface water and groundwater in the Community undertaken in coordination with the European Environment Agency.'

Improved knowledge, but ambiguous results due to data gaps and methodology issues

The quality of the EEA's assessments relies on the quality of the Member States' reports and data delivery. There are examples of very good, high‑quality reporting. However, there are also cases where reporting contains gaps or contradictions. Bad or incomplete reporting can lead to wrong and/or incomplete assessments.

Due to delays in the development of national classification systems in many Member States, only a few biological quality elements could be used for assessing ecological status of water bodies for the first RBMPs. Many water bodies have been classified without actual monitoring of biology or chemical pollutants, and by using expert judgement partly based on the information compiled in the pressure and impact analyses.

The knowledge base to classify the ecological and chemical status, pressures and impacts was not optimal for the first RBMPs. However, compared to the situation before the WFD, there has been a significant improvement of the knowledge base and increased transparency by bringing together information on all characteristics, pressures and impacts on water bodies at basin level.

In the EEA's opinion, this report's results present good and robust European overviews of the data reported by the first RBMPs, and of the ecological status and pressures affecting Europe's waters. Caution is advised concerning country and river basin district (RBD) comparisons, as results may be affected by the methodology approach used by the individual Member State. Likewise, it is not advisable to draw detailed conclusions on the chemical status results: in the first RBMPs, there was a lack of chemical monitoring and of comparability Executive summary 8 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

of the information on chemical status of water bodies among Member States.

Trend in status of and pressures affecting waters up to the first RBMPs

Europe's waters are affected by several pressures, including water pollution, water scarcity and floods. Major modifications to water bodies also affect morphology and water flow. To maintain and improve the essential functions of our water ecosystems, we need to manage them well.

Clean unpolluted water is essential for our ecosystems. Pollutants in many of Europe's surface waters have had detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems and resulted in the loss of aquatic flora and fauna and is cause for concern for public health. These pollutants arise from a range of sources including agriculture, industry, households and the transport sector, and they are transported to water via numerous diffuse and point pathways. Agriculture, for example, causes widespread problems of nutrient enrichment in inland and coastal waters across Europe, despite some recent improvements in some regions.

During the last 25 years, significant progress has been made in numerous European waters in reducing the pollution This progress includes improved wastewater treatment, reduced volumes of industrial effluents, reduced use of fertilisers, reduced or banned phosphate content in detergents, as well as reduced atmospheric emissions. Implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive (91/271/EEC), together with national legislation, has led to improvements in wastewater treatment across much of the continent. This has resulted in reduced point discharges of nutrients and organic pollution to freshwater bodies. Water quality in Europe has therefore improved significantly in recent decades, and effects of pollutants have decreased.

For decades, sometimes centuries, humans have altered European surface waters (straightening and canalisation, disconnection of flood plains, land reclamations, dams, weirs, bank reinforcements, etc.) to facilitate agriculture and urbanisation, produce energy and protect against flooding. The activities result in damage to the morphology and hydrology of the water bodies, in other words, to their hydromorphology. Such activities result in altered habitats and have severe and significant impacts on the status of the aquatic ecosystems.

There are several hundred thousand barriers and transverse structures in European rivers. In many river basins, the continuity of the rivers is interrupted every second kilometre. Many water courses have their seasonal or daily flow regimes changed for various purposes, including damming for hydropower production and storage of irrigation water. Transitional and coastal habitats have been altered in many ways: by dredging, land reclamation and hard infrastructure for coastal protection and erosion management.

Ecological and chemical status, pressures and impacts

The WFD requires that all the issues mentioned above are addressed in order to ensure that by 2015 all water bodies have good status. For surface waters, there are two separate classifications, ecological and chemical status. Groundwater bodies are classified according to their chemical status and quantitative status. For a water body to be in overall good status, both chemical status and ecological or quantitative status must be at least good.

The European Union (EU) Member States have via the RBMPs reported information from more than 13 000 groundwater bodies and 127 000 surface water bodies: 82 % of them rivers, 15 % lakes, and 3 % coastal and transitional waters. The results are analysed below.

Ecological status

• More than half of the surface water bodies in Europe are reported to be in less than good ecological status or potential, and will need mitigation and/or restoration measures to meet the WFD objective.

• River water bodies and transitional waters are reported to have worse ecological status or potential and more pressures and impacts compared to water bodies in lakes and coastal waters.

• The pressures reported to affect most surface water bodies are pollution from diffuse sources, in particular from agriculture, causing nutrient enrichment, and hydromorphological pressures resulting in altered habitats.

• The worst areas of Europe concerning ecological status and pressures in freshwater are in central

Executive summary


European waters — assessment of status and pressures

and north-western Europe, while for coastal and transitional waters, the Baltic Sea and Greater North Sea regions are the worst.

A large proportion of water bodies, particularly in the regions with intensive agriculture and high population density have poor ecological status and are affected by pollution pressures. The situation calls for increased attention to achieve good water quality and ecological status. Despite some progress in reducing agricultural inputs of pollutants, diffuse pollution from agriculture is a significant pressure in more than 40 % of Europe's water bodies in rivers and coastal waters, and in one third of the water bodies in lakes and transitional waters. The RBDs and Member States with a high proportion of water bodies affected by diffuse pollution are found in north-western Europe in particular, and correspond to the regions with high fertiliser input and high river nitrate concentration. Discharges from wastewater treatment plants and industries and the overflow of wastewater from sewage systems still cause pollution: 22 % of water bodies still have point sources as a significant pressure.

Hydromorphological pressures and altered habitats are the most commonly occurring pressures in rivers, lakes and transitional water, affecting around 40 % of river and transitional water bodies and 30 % of the lake water bodies. The hydromorphological pressures are mainly attributable to hydropower, navigation, agriculture, flood protection and urban development.

Chemical status

The information provided in the RBMPs on chemical status is not sufficiently clear to establish a baseline for 2009. The chemical quality of water bodies has improved significantly in the last 30 years, but the situation as regards the priority substances introduced by the WFD is not clear. The assessment of chemical status presents a large proportion of water bodies with unknown status. Monitoring is clearly insufficient and inadequate in many Member States, where not all priority substances are monitored and the number of water bodies being monitored is very limited. The results from the first RBMPs showed:

• Poor chemical status for groundwater, by area, is about 25 % across Europe. A total of 16 Member States have more than 10 % of groundwater bodies in poor chemical status; this figure exceeds 50 % in four Member States. Excessive levels of nitrate are the most frequent cause of poor groundwater status across much of Europe.

• Poor chemical status for rivers, lakes, and transitional and coastal waters does not exceed 10 %, aggregated across Europe as a whole. Notably, the chemical status of many of Europe's surface waters remains unknown, ranging between one third of lakes and more than half of transitional waters.

• A total of 10 Member States report poor chemical status in more than 20 % of rivers and lakes with known chemical status, whilst this figure rises to above 40 % in five Member States.

• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a widespread cause of poor status in rivers. Heavy metals are also a significant contributor to poor status in rivers and lakes, with levels of mercury in Swedish freshwater biota causing 100 % failure to reach good chemical status. Industrial chemicals such as the plasticiser di(2ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and pesticides also constitute widespread causes of poor chemical status in rivers.

• Six Member States report poor chemical status in transitional waters to be more than 50 % of the water bodies with known chemical status. PAHs, the antifouling biocide tributyltin (TBT) and heavy metals are the most common culprits.

• Six Member States report all their coastal waters as having good chemical status, although in five others, poor chemical status exceeds 90 % of those water bodies with a known chemical status. A variety of pollutant groups contribute to poor status in coastal waters, reflecting a diverse range of sources.

Protection of Europe's aquatic ecosystems and their services

The EU policies on water and the marine environment, nature and biodiversity are closely linked, and together they form the backbone of environmental protection of Europe's ecosystems and their services. One of the main objectives of the WFD is the integrated view on and the protection of aquatic ecosystems using a holistic approach. For this reason, the relationship between the results of the first round of RBMP reporting have been compared with the current implementation of the nature legislation (Birds (2009/147/EC) and Habitats Executive summary 10 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

(92/43/EEC)) and the future development under the Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

Both the nature directives and the WFD aim at ensuring healthy aquatic ecosystems while at the same time ensuring a balance between water and nature protection and the sustainable use of natural resources. At the moment, the two processes designating aquatic habitat types under Natura 2000 and the WFD water types are run in parallel, and today there is not enough coordination between the two processes. Common WFD water types will together with the Natura 2000 aquatic habitat types provide a good basis for coordinated assessment of status, pressures and impact, and will result in co-benefits for both processes.

In order to protect small water bodies (small streams and ponds), there is now an urgent need to raise awareness about their ongoing destruction and their many beneficial functions to society. This will increase political recognition of their importance for maintaining a healthy and diverse aquatic environment. Coordinated activities with the protected habitats under the nature directives and WFD activities should help to ensure the protection of these valuable small water bodies.

As many habitats and aquatic species are related to WFD water bodies or water types, the measures proposed under the Birds and Habitats Directives (BHDs) and the WFD may be partly the same. Therefore there is a need for coordination between the responsible authorities for nature conservation and water management; measures may offer joint benefits.

Restoring and preserving aquatic ecosystems has multiple benefits for the WFD and BHDs: this includes activities such as 'making room for the river', river restoration or floodplain rehabilitation, 'coastal zone restoration projects' and integrated coastal zone management. The forthcoming strategy for an EU-wide 'Green Infrastructure' (EC, 2010a) will help reconnect existing nature areas and improve ecological quality overall; both the WFD and BHDs would benefit from green infrastructure projects.

The results and assessment from the three processes within the water (WFD) and marine environment (MFSD), nature and biodiversity are important building blocks for the ecosystems and ecosystem services assessments that will be produced in the coming years.

Challenges for achieving good status

Objectives in the WFD stipulate that good status must be achieved by 2015. Extending the deadline beyond 2015 is permitted under certain conditions.

In 2009, 42 % of all surface water bodies held good or high ecological status; in 2015, 52 % of water bodies are expected to reach good status. This is far from meeting the objective and constitutes only a modest improvement in ecological status.

The information provided on the chemical status of surface waters was limited and not consistent. More than 40 % of the surface water bodies are reported as having 'unknown chemical status'. The assessment of chemical status for the water bodies with known status is not fully comparable.

For groundwater, 80 % of groundwater bodies held good chemical status and 87 % held good quantitative status in 2009. For 2015, an increase in groundwater bodies achieving good status is foreseen; in 2015 some 89 % and 96 % of groundwater bodies are predicted to be in good chemical status and quantitative status, respectively.

To maintain and improve the essential functions of our water ecosystems, we need to manage them well. This can only succeed if we adopt the integrated approach introduced in the WFD and related water legislation. Full implementation of the WFD throughout all sectors is needed to resolve the different pressures and to commit all users in a river basin to focus on the achievement of healthy water bodies with good status. Most of the water challenges faced by aquatic ecosystems can be addressed through better implementation of the extensive legislative framework on water already in place, and by enhancing the integration of water policy objectives into other policy areas such as the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), the Cohesion and Structural Funds, and the policies on renewable energy and transport.

To achieve good status, Member States will have to address the pressures affecting water bodies. Pollution is one pressure; morphological changes and hydrological changes affecting water flow are others. While Member States are relatively clear about the types of pressures their river basins are encountering, precise information is missing on how these pressures will be addressed and to what extent the selected measures will contribute to the achievement of the environmental objectives in 2015. Executive summary 11 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

Although considerable success has been achieved in reducing the discharge of pollutants into Europe's waters in recent decades, challenges remain for urban and industrial wastewater and pollution from agricultural sources. The focus must be placed on ensuring that existing EU water legislation, including the UWWT, Nitrates (91/676/EEC) and Environmental Quality Standards (2008/105/EC) directives are implemented in all Member States. This will help to improve the quality of water, e.g. by reducing nutrient and chemical pollution before it enters water bodies. Wastewater treatment must continue to play a critical role in the protection of Europe's surface waters, and investment will be required to upgrade wastewater treatment and to maintain infrastructure in many European countries.

Despite improvements in some regions, diffuse pollution from agriculture in particular remains a major cause of the poor water quality currently observed in parts of Europe. Measures exist to tackle agricultural pollution and they need to be implemented according to the WFD, while full compliance with the Nitrates Directive is also required. The forthcoming reform of the CAP provides an opportunity to further strengthen water protection.

New and largely unknown groups of substances keep appearing in the aquatic environment, the effects of which may be even more significant. Examples include antibiotics, medicines and substances that disrupt the hormonal balance. Focus must be placed on reducing the emissions and the effects of these emerging pollutants.

The WFD is the first piece of European environmental legislation that addresses hydromorphological pressures and impacts on water bodies. It requires action in those cases where the hydromorphological pressures affect the ecological status, interfering with the ability to achieve the WFD objectives. If the morphology is degraded or the water flow is markedly changed, a water body with good water quality will not achieve its full potential as a habitat for wildlife.

The restoration of hydromorphological conditions such as river continuity concerns the basin and the full length of the river, from the marine structures through to upstream hydraulic structures, and must involve all public and private stakeholders concerned. In nearly all RBMPs assessed, there are hydromorphological measures proposed in the programme of measures (PoM). Around two thirds of the RBMPs had measures to mitigate the negative impact of mitigation barriers. These include the removal of obstacles and the installation of fish passes. Some measures focused on re‑naturation of aquatic habitats, such as improving physical habitats, including by the restoration of bank structures and riverbeds. Measures related to sediment management strategy were also relatively common. Natural water retention measures that restore natural water storage, for example by inundating flood plains and constructing retention basins, were mentioned in less than a fifth of the RBMPs. Measures to improve the water flow regime such as setting minimum flow requirements were found in around half of the RBMPs.

As outlined above, there are ample possibilities for improving water management to achieve the objectives of the WFD, through stringent and well‑integrated implementation. However, the next cycle of RBM planning needs to also take into account a wider consideration of water resource management and aspects of climate change.

Preparing for climate change is a major challenge for water management in Europe. In the years to come, climate change will increase water temperature and the likelihood of flooding, droughts and water scarcity. There are many indications that water bodies already under stress from pressures are highly susceptible to climate change impacts, and that climate change may hinder attempts to restore some water bodies to good status. Here the establishment of good ecological and healthy ecosystem conditions are extremely important. Good ecological status will also increase the resilience of the ecosystem, i.e. its capability to absorb additional adverse pressures.

The 'flow regime' and water level fluctuations are one of the major determinants of ecosystem function and services in aquatic ecosystems. In many locations, water demand often exceeds availability, and in many cases exploitation of water resources has led to significant degradation of freshwater biodiversity. Water resource management needs to be an integrated part of the RBMP. In more arid river basins, such as in the Mediterranean, drought management plans are already partly integrated into RBM planning. However, the recent assessment of both the water scarcity and drought policy and the climate change adaptation and vulnerability policies show that there are considerable improvements needed in the future management of water resources in Europe. The European Commission 'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's waters' and EEA's report 'European waters — current status and future challenges (Synthesis)' (EEA, 2012e) kicks-off the discussion of the future management of European water resources.12 Introduction European waters — assessment of status and pressures

1 Introduction

1.1 EEA 2012 'State of Europe's water' reports

Europe's waters are affected by several pressures, including water pollution, water scarcity and floods, and by major modifications affecting morphology and water flow. To maintain and improve the essential functions of our water ecosystems, we need to manage them well. Water management in Europe is complex, owing to the diverse geophysical, climatic, socio-economic, and political realities that exist across Member States. It can only succeed if we adopt the integrated approach introduced in the WFD and related water legislation, including the Nitrates Directive and the UWWT Directive. The challenge now is to fully implement this range of legislation.

At the European level, a multitude of state of water assessments have been undertaken (EEA, 2011a). These assessments have primarily focused on the states and pressures of European waters, but recent assessment has showed their scope to be too narrow, requiring a shift in focus towards management and measures.

2012 is the European year of water in which the European Commission published its 'Blueprint to safeguard European waters', comprising reviews of the WFD, water scarcity and drought and adaptation to climate change policies. To accompany and inform the Blueprint, the EEA has produced a set of reports, the 'State of Europe's water', to be published throughout 2012. The reports are developed in close cooperation and coordination with the European Commission's assessment of the WFD RBMPs and other work preparing the 'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's water resources'.

The Commission has published its third WFD implementation report as required by Article 18 of the WFD. This third implementation report is formed by the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the Water Framework Directive implementation report (EC, 2012b), plus the Commission Staff Working Document on the European Overview of the implementation (EC, 2012a) and another Commission Staff Working Document with a set of annexes describing the results of the assessment by the Commission of the RBMPs relating to each Member State (EC, 2012c).

The EEA 2012 'State of Europe's water' assessments consist of an overarching synthesis and integrated report (EEA, 2012e) and three thematic assessments:

• Towards efficient use of water resources in Europe (EEA, 2012a);

• Water resources in Europe in the context of vulnerability (EEA, 2012d);

• European waters — assessment of status and pressures (the current report).

In addition, a number of EEA technical background reports and documents are being published by the European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine waters (ETC/ICM) and by the ETC on Climate Change impacts, vulnerability and Adaptation (ETC/CCA). These reports will contain more detailed information and results on the assessment of information from RBMPs on status and pressures and assessment of water scarcity, droughts and floods. These reports are:

• 'Ecological and chemical status and pressures' (EEA ETC/ICM, 2012a);

• 'Hydromorphology' — (EEA ETC/ICM, 2012b);

• 'Water scarcity and drought' (EEA ETC/ICM, 2012c),

• 'Floods', (EEA ETC/CCA, 2012),

The report European waters — assessment of status and pressures is based on an assessment by the EEA of the RBMPs adopted and reported from 2009 to 2012 by Member States. The information in the RBMPs, together with other related sources of information, has been analysed to establish an assessment of the status of and pressures affecting Europe's waters. Introduction 13 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

The report provides a baseline for assessing trends in status and pressures in the following RBM planning cycles.

The structure of the report is presented in Figure 1.1.

• Executive summary: presents the key results and conclusions.

• Chapter 1: presents information on the EEA 2012 state of water reports and the geographical settings, including an overview of European river basin and sea regions. The chapter also contains a description of European water policies with particular focus on the different elements of the WFD.

• Chapter 2 summarises data sources and methodology used for data handling, and explains the various assumptions made in relation to the analysis.

• Chapter 3 provides a baseline for assessing trends in pollution and water quality as well as hydromorphology pressures up to the first RBMPs; it illustrates how we can learn from past actions and measures.

• Chapter 4 presents an overview of the results on ecological status, pressures and impacts for each surface water category: rivers, lakes, transitional waters, and coastal waters. Results on ecological status and pressures for EU Member States are also presented.

• Chapter 5 presents European, Member State and RBD overviews of the results on chemical status.

• Chapter 6 discusses the protection of Europe's aquatic ecosystems and their services. It considers the joint benefits of coordinated nature conservation and water management.

• Chapter 7 reviews the expected progress in achieving the WFD objectives, the possible challenges, and the measures for reducing pressures from pollution and hydromorphology.

1.1.1 Geographical settings

Europe has an extensive network of rivers and streams making up several million kilometres of flowing waters. More than a million lakes cover the European continent. The EU has a long coastline (1) and several hundreds of transitional waters in the form of fjords, estuaries, lagoons and deltas. Each body of water has individual characteristics.

Figure 1.1 Report structure Ecological status and pressures European overview Member State and River Basin District Chemical status Protection of Europe's aquatic ecosystems and their services Challenges for achieving good status of waters • Less pollution and improved water quality • Restoring altered habitats and reducing hydromorphological pressures Europen waters — assessment of status and pressures Introduction • 2012 state of water reports • Geographical settings • European water policies and WFD Data sources, methodologies and uncertainties Trends in status of and pressures affecting waters up to the first RBMPs European overview Member State and River Basin District

(1) Coastal waters represent the interface between land and ocean, and in the context of the WFD, coastal waters include water that has not been designated as transitional water, extending 1 nautical mile from a baseline defined by the land points where territorial waters are measured.Introduction 14 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

River basin districts

The implementation of the WFD has resulted in the designation of 111 RBDs across the EU (Map 1.1). There are 40 international RBDs consisting of national parts of RBDs in Member States. The international RBDs cover more than 60 % of the territory of the EU. An important feature of the WFD is a planning mechanism, referred to as the international River Basin Management Plans. The

Map 1.1 Map of RBDs and sea regions used in the report RU RU RU RU RU BY BY BY SI RS BA HR FY Dniestr FY ME XK MDMD UA UA UA UA Gauja Minho Shannon Hordaland West Aegean Solway Tweed Western Western Wales Thames South Western Catalonia Galicia Black Sea Lielupe RU Celtic Seas B l a c k S e a M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a Baltic Sea Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Greater North Sea D a n u b e E l b e R h i n e L o i r e Po O d r a V i s t u l a Rhτne Ebro S e i n e Douro Tagus Scotland Bothnian Bay V u o k s i Jucar Weser Guadiana Sicily Guadalquivir Bothnian Sea Adour-Garonne Nordland Kemijoki Troms Kokemδenjoki Glomma Nemunas Meuse Scheldt Oulujoki- Iijoki Ems Troendelag West Bay Venta Anglian Norte East Aegean Tornionjoki Agder Skagerrak and Kattegat Southern Appenines Daugava Eastern Alps Humber West- Estonian Severn Sardinia Segura North Baltic Sea Kymijoki- Gulf of Finland Andalusia Central Appenines Tenojoki/ Finmark South West East-Estonian Warnow/ Peene Moere and Romsdal Sogn and Fjordane Jutland and Funen South Baltic Sea Northern Appenines AD LI RO PL PL FR IT DE DE AT FI HU FI ES LT ES IT ES DE CZ SK BG NO FI IT NL BG LV PT CH FR SI FI CZ PT FR LV ES EL BE BG LT FR IE EL EL Cyprus EL LT SE EE DE BE PT EL LV DE NL PL FR CH CZ UK UKNL DE PT NL IE CH IE LU AT PT LT PL SK EE ATCZ Malta PL PL PL PL 70° 60° 50° 40° 40° 30° 30° 20° 20° 10° 10° -10° -20° -30° 60° 50° 50° 40° 40° 30° 0 500 1 000250 Km International and national river basin districts and sea regions International river basin district National river basin district International river basin district outside EU-27 National river basin district outside EU-27 International river basin district boundary Country boundary EU-27 boundary Regional sea coastline Black Sea Mediterranean Sea Celtic Sea, Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Greather North Sea Baltic Sea Outside EU-27

Source: Administrative boundaries: European Commission — Eurostat/GISCO and WISE River basin districts (RBDs) processed by the ETC/ICM.Introduction 15 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

aim of these plans is for Member States to cooperate to ensure that environmental objectives targets are met.

Europe's seas include the Baltic, north-east Atlantic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas. The north-east Atlantic includes the North Sea, but also the Arctic and Barents Seas, the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea, the Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast.

1.2 European water policies

The main aim of EU water policy is to ensure that throughout the EU, a sufficient quantity of good‑quality water is available for people's needs and for the environment. Since the 1970s, through a variety of measures, the EU has worked to create an effective and coherent water policy.

The first directives, adopted in the mid-1970s, established a series of quality standards aimed at protecting human health and the living environment. The standards covered surface water used for drinking water, bathing water, fish waters, shellfish waters, groundwater and water for human consumption. In the same 'generation' of legislation, a directive that set standards for the discharge of dangerous substances into the aquatic environment was for many years the main instrument to control emissions from industry (see also EC, 2008a).

However, the quality standard approach proved insufficient for protecting Europe's polluted waters. When eutrophication became a major problem in the North and Baltic seas and parts of the Mediterranean in the late 1980s, the EU started to focus on the sources of pollutants. This led to the UWWT Directive, which requires Member States to invest in infrastructure for collecting and treating sewage in urban areas, while the Nitrates Directive requires farmers to control the amounts of nitrogen fertilisers applied to fields. And the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive (2008/1/EC), adopted a few years later, aims to minimise pollutants discharged from large industrial installations.

The WFD, which came into force on 22 December 2000, establishes a new framework for the management, protection and improvement of the quality of water resources across the EU. The WFD calls for the creation of River Basin Districts (RBDs). In case of international districts that cover the territory of more than one EU Member State, the WFD requires coordination of work in these districts.

EU Member States should aim to achieve good status in all bodies of surface water and groundwater by 2015 unless there are grounds for derogation. Only in this case may achievement of good status be extended to 2021 or by 2027 at the latest. Achieving good status involves meeting certain standards for the ecology, chemistry, morphology and quantity of waters. In general terms, 'good status' means that water shows only a slight change from what would normally be expected under undisturbed conditions. There is also a general 'no deterioration' provision to prevent deterioration in status.

The WFD establishes a legal framework to protect and restore clean water in sufficient quantity across Europe. It introduces a number of generally agreed principles and concepts in a binding regulatory instrument. In particular, it provides for the following:

• A sustainable approach to managing an essential resource: not only does the WFD consider water to be a valuable ecosystem, it also recognises the economy and human health dependent on it.

• Holistic ecosystem protection: the WFD ensures that the fresh and coastal water environment is to be protected in its entirety.

• Ambitious objectives, flexible means: the achievement of 'good status' by 2015 is ambitious and will ensure the fulfilment of human needs, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity protection. At the same time, the WFD provides flexibility for achieving this in the most cost-effective way and introduces a possibility for priority setting in the planning.

• The right geographical scale: the WFD states that the natural administrative unit for water management is the river basin.

• The 'polluter pays' principle: the WFD's introduction of water pricing policies with the element of cost recovery and the cost‑effectiveness provisions are milestones in the application of economic instruments for the benefit of the environment.

• Participatory processes: the WFD ensures the active participation of all businesses, farmers and other stakeholders, environmental non‑governmental organisations (NGOs), and local communities in river basin management activities.Introduction 16 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

• Better regulation and streamlining: the WFD and its related directives (the Groundwater Daughter Directive (2006/118/EC) and the Floods Directive (COM(2007)15)) repeal 12 directives from the 1970s and 1980s which created a well-intended but fragmented and burdensome regulatory system. The WFD creates synergies, increases protection and streamlines efforts.

Implementation of the WFD is to be achieved through the river basin management planning process, which requires the preparation, implementation and review of a RBMP every six years for each RBD identified. This calls for an approach to river basin planning and management that takes all relevant factors into account and considers them together. There are five main elements of the process:

• governance and public participation;

• characterisation of the RBD and the pressures and impacts on the water environment;

• environmental monitoring based on river basin characterisation;

• setting of environmental objectives;

• design and implementation of a programme of measures (PoM) to achieve environmental objectives. An important aspect of the measures is full implementation of the UWWT Directive and Nitrates Directive on reducing pollutants that lower pollution and will improve water quality and aid the achievement of good status under the WFD.

RBMPs are plans for protecting and improving the water environment; they have been developed in consultation with organisations and individuals. River basin planning is a gradual cyclical process that involves public participation throughout. RBMPs follow a series of steps shown in Figure 1.2. The river basin planning process started more than 10 years ago with the implementation of the WFD in national legislation and establishment of the administrative structures. The next steps in 2004 were analyses of the pressures and impacts affecting the water environment in the RBD. The findings were published in 2005 in the characterisation report required by Article 5 of the WFD.

In 2006, monitoring programmes within the RBDs had to be established. The WFD monitoring network enables the identification and resolution of problems, thereby improving the water environment. The reports and consultation on Significant Water Management Issues (SWMIs) in 2007 and 2008 were important steps leading towards the production of the first RBMPs.

The RBMPs describe the measures that must be taken to improve the ecological quality of water bodies and help reach the objectives of the WFD. The WFD requires, via the RBMPs, a programme of measures to be established for each RBD. The measures implemented as part of the programme should enable water bodies to achieve the environmental objectives of the WFD. The PoM must be established by December 2009 and be made operational by December 2012.

The Commission's Water information notes (EC, 2008c) available online, give an introduction

Figure 1.2 The WFD river basin planning process Achieve objectives Update RBMP Characterisation Plan of action Monitoring programme Significant water issues Environmental objectives Programme of measures Draft RBMP Final RBMP Implement programme of measures Public participation

Source: Based on EC, 2003. Introduction 17 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

and overview of key aspects of the implementation of the WFD.

Over the last few years, European countries that are not EU Member States have developed similar river basin activities to those introduced by the WFD in the EU Member States:

In Turkey, Basin Protection Action Plans have been prepared by the General Directorate of Water Management with the same vision as WFD RBMPs (Cicek, 2012). The 25 Basin Protection Action Plans aim at: protection of the water resources, best use of water resources, prevention of pollution, and improvement of the quality of polluted water resources. A new EU-supported project, 'River Basin Management Plans for five basins', with a EUR 6.6 million budget, is due to kick off in 2013.

In 2007, the Icelandic parliament voted for adaptation of the WFD with the objective to fulfill its requirements before 2017. Iceland has identified one RBD, four sub-basins, and several coastal waters (Guπmundsdσttir, 2010).

As a non-EU member, Switzerland is not bound to implement the WFD. However, the Swiss legal system sets comparable targets regarding water protection and management (EEA, 2010a). In contrast to the WFD, which is based on planning periods with specified targets, the Swiss legislation formulates binding requirements, including a set of national limits which must be met at all times. As a member of the international commissions of the Rhine River Basin and of the Lakes of Constance, Geneva, Lugano and the Lago Maggiore, Switzerland collaborates with its neighboring states to achieve water protection goals and to implement endorsed programmes, and thus indirectly adopts certain principles of the WFD.

Norway is connected to the EU as a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country, through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The WFD was formally taken into the EEA agreement in 2009, granting the EFTA countries extended deadlines for implementation. The WFD was transposed into the Norwegian Regulation on a Framework for Water Management in 2007 (Vannportalen, Norway, 2012). Norway performed a voluntary implementation of the WFD in selected sub-districts across the country from 2007 until 2009, thus gaining the experience of river basin management planning. RBMPs for the selected sub-districts were adopted by the county councils in 2009, and approved by the national government in June of 2010. RBMPs covering the entire country will be prepared from 2010 until 2015, synchronised with the time schedule of the second cycle of RBM planning in the EU.

The Sava River is the third longest tributary of the Danube and the largest Danube tributary by discharge. It runs through four countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia), and part of its catchment is also in Montenegro and Albania.The International Sava River Commission (ISRBC) is working together with countries on the development of the Sava RBMP, in line with the EU WFD (Sava Commission, 2012). A consultation of the draft Sava RBMP has run from December 2011 to April 2012.

© Peter Kristensen18 Data sources, methodology and uncertainties European waters — assessment of status and pressures

2 Data sources, methodology and uncertainties

This report is compiled from information on the status of European ground and surface water bodies as reported from EU Member States in the first round of RBMPs under the WFD. This work by the EEA reflects cooperation with the European Commission on the assessment of implementation of the WFD as laid out in Article 18 of the WFD, according to which:

'The Commission shall publish a report on the implementation of this directive at the latest 12 years after the date of entry into force of this directive (two years after the Member States have delivered the RBMPs). The report shall among others include the following:

• a review of progress in the implementation of the directive;

• a review of the status of surface water and groundwater in the Community undertaken in coordination with the European Environment Agency.'

The RBMPs are comprehensive documents consisting of hundreds to thousands of pages of information, which cover many aspects of water management. They are published in the national languages. The assessment of the plans is therefore an extremely challenging and complex task that involves handling extensive information in more than 20 languages.

The information from the RBMPs is accompanied by information on the status of European waters, which the EEA has collected since the mid-1990s within its European Information and Observation Network (Eionet). This information on water quality trends helps to provide a baseline for future evaluation of the achievements of the WFD and underlying directives.

2.1 Data sources

2.1.1 Data reported via WFD RBMPs to the WISE‑WFD database

According to the WFD, from 22 December 2009, the RBMPs should be available for all RBDs across the EU. There are, however, serious delays in some parts of the EU, and in some countries consultations are still ongoing. In May 2012, 23 EU Member States had their RBMPs adopted. Four countries (Portugal, Spain, Greece, and the Walloon and Brussels parts of Belgium) had not yet finalised the consultation of the RBMPs, and therefore had not adopted RBMPs.

In addition to the RBMPs, Member States have reported a comprehensive set of data related to the results of the RBMPs (such as ecological status for each individual water body or significant pressures affecting a water body) to the Water Information System for Europe (WISE). The EEA has a central role in the management of WISE due to the Agency's role as the EU data centre for water. The reporting of RBMP data is described in the WFD-CIS Guidance No 21 (EC, 2009c).

In May 2012, data from 161 RBDs was uploaded by Member States and incorporated into the WISE‑WFD database. The WISE-WFD database also included data from Member States (Portugal, Spain, and Greece) that have not yet adopted RBMPs. There is still missing reporting from some Member States and RBDs, and reporting is incomplete on some issues. The EEA and its ETC/ICM have analysed the detailed information and data reported in the WISE‑WFD database up to May 2012. The analysis focuses on data and information on status, pressures and impacts on European waters.

Data from the WISE-WFD database are available at country and RBD level at the EEA water data centre homepage: sources, methodology and uncertainties 19 European waters — assessment of status and pressures

water/dc (WISE). For the diagrams, maps and tables included in this report, the source information below the diagrams provide links to the underlying data in the WISE-WFD database.

2.1.2 EEA WISE-SoE data collection

In addition to the data reported from RBMPs to the WISE-WFD database, the EEA holds water quality data, reported voluntarily by EEA member countries each year. These data reflect a representative sub‑sample of national monitoring results. In the context of the implementation of the WFD, the annual data flow for water quality has been transferred into the WISE 'State of the Environment' (SoE) voluntary data flow (WISE-SoE). It thereby remains one of the Eionet Priority Data Flows, but gains full integration into the reporting under WISE and complementarity with data collected under the WFD.

Data are transferred on an annual basis from the countries to the EEA, and are stored in the Agency's 'Waterbase'. By May 2012, EEA Waterbase contained a vast amount of water quality information covering more than 10 000 river stations in 37 countries, 3 500 lake stations in 35 countries, 5 000 coastal stations in 28 countries, and around 1 500 groundwater bodies.

The data reported in the WISE-WFD and the WISE‑SoE databases makes it possible to evaluate trends in water quality and to assess the water quality data in conjunction with the WISE-WFD RBMP data on ecological and chemical status and pressure information for the individual water bodies, where the Member State identification code matches for the two datasets.

2.2 Methodology

2.2.1 WFD water bodies

In the context of the WFD, the 'water environment' includes rivers, lakes, estuaries, groundwater and coastal waters out to one nautical mile (12 nautical miles for chemical status). These waters are divided into units called water bodies.

EU Member States have reported 13 300 groundwater bodies and more than 127 000 surface water bodies. 82 % of these are rivers, 15 % are lakes and 3 % are coastal and transitional waters (Table 2.1). All Member States have reported groundwater bodies, and all EU Member States except Malta have reported river water bodies. 24 Member States have reported lake water bodies, and 16 and 22 Member States have reported transitional and coastal water bodies, respectively.

Information has been reported for more than 1.1 million km of European rivers. These rivers have been divided into 104 000 water bodies, with an average length of 11 km. Member States have reported more than 19 000 lake water bodies covering an area of 88 000 km2. Nearly 4 000 coastal and transitional water bodies have been reported, covering approximately 370 000 km2.

Table 2.1 Number of Member States, RBDs, water bodies, and length or area, per water category





Number of

water bodies

Total length

or area

Average length/ area




104 311

1.17 million km

11.3 km




19 053

88 000 km2

4.6 km2




1 010

19 600 km2

19 km2

Coastal waters



3 033

358 000 km2

118 km2




13 261

3.8 million km2

309 km2 (*)