State of European waters: EU Member States need to do much more

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18 Jul

The latest ‘State of Water’ report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) earlier this month shows that the EU Member States need to do much more to comply with the water legislation and make it work on the ground.

Despite some improvements recent years the majority of Europe’s water bodies still fail to meet the European Union’s minimum target for ‘good status’ according to the EEA report ‘European waters - assessment of status and pressures 2018’. 

The report informs that most of the EU’s groundwater bodies are in a good chemical and quantitative status: 

“Of the different water bodies recognised by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) across Europe, groundwaters generally have the best status. Good chemical status has been achieved for 74 % of the groundwater area, while 89 % of the area achieved good quantitative status.” 

But “around 40 % of surface waters (rivers, lakes and transitional and coastal waters) are in good ecological status or potential, and only 38 % are in good chemical status.” 

The report identifies three top threats which hinder progress in meeting the EU targets: 

•Nitrate pollution from agricultural activities into water bodies; 

•Hydromorphological alteration – e.g. river straightening, dredging, dams, dikes, barriers and water abstraction – which destroys habitats for aquatic animals, making it difficult for them to feed and breed, and prevents migratory species from moving along the rivers; 

•Over-exploitation of water which is closely interlinked to the 'quantitative' status of the water ecosystems. Problems in this area include phenomena like droughts, floods and water scarcity. 

It is also mentioned that: “In many river basins, the upper stretches in mountainous areas, highland areas and often forest areas remain largely in their natural state except when hydropower and irrigation reservoirs have changed the system.” 

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries welcomed the publication of the report, and said

“...it’s time to step up the pace to reach our policy objectives. Because on the down side, the report shows 60% of the EU’s surface water bodies in a state that is less than good. Nutrients from agriculture and aquaculture, pesticides, microplastics and pharmaceutical residues are present in water bodies, often in quantities that are too high. There are traces of mercury almost everywhere in Europe’s waters. Tens of thousands of obstacles of all sizes are hindering the natural migration patterns of fish. From here to achieving 100% good status or equivalent by 2027, the last deadline in the Directive, is a steep climb.” 

We, the European Anglers Alliance, welcome the report, which is an urgent reminder to Member States to step up their efforts to implement fully the EU Water Framework Directive. EAA urges that obsolete dams should be removed as soon as possible and fish passages installed where none are installed today to secure the fish migration up- and downstream the rivers. 

We have teamed up with other prominent NGOs under the name “Living Rivers Europe” to closely monitor the upcoming review process of the EU Water Framework Directive, and to prevent that the Directive might be changed to require less from the Member States to implement. 

● The EEA report is available here , and EEA news release of 3 July here

● News release: “Commissioner Vella welcomes the State of Water report 2018 of the European Environment Agency”, 4 July here 

● More information about the EU Water Framework Directive is available here 

● WFD Implementation Reports here 

● “Living Rivers Europe” platform. Launched 22 March 2017- for the upcoming review of the Water Framework Directive

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