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More action needed to clean up rivers and lakes – EU Environment Agency report

tree on meandering river. meadow around.

A new report published today by the European Environment Agency shows that the vast majority of the EU’s lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater fail to meet minimum EU environmental standards on water quality.

The EEB calls on EU governments to protect water habitats and species by tackling the main causes of poor water quality, including the expansion of hydropower dams, rerouting rivers, reclaimed land, and chemical contamination as a result of fertiliser run-off.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with 140 members in more than 30 countries.

Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

With healthy freshwater ecosystems essential for our health and wellbeing, our economy and our wildlife, today’s findings on the worrying state of Europe’s rivers, lakes, and coasts should serve as a serious wake up call to EU and Member State decision makers. Back in 2000, EU countries agreed on a groundbreaking, ambitious and necessary law to protect and restore our precious freshwater, now they must use the current evaluation of the law to urgently improve its implementation in order to bring our water environment back to health.”

EU water quality standards are defined by the Water Framework Directive – an EU law adopted 18 years ago on protecting and restoring freshwater habitats in Europe. The Water Framework Directive will undergo an evaluation this year and a public consultation is expected to begin this autumn.

Key findings from the report include:

– The study reveals how structural changes from a range of human activities have affected water quality, in addition to more ‘established’ causes of damage such as contamination from chemicals such as mercury.

– 40 % of the lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters monitored between 2010 and 2015 achieved a ‘good’ or ‘high’ ecological status – a lower percentage than in the last water assessment from 2012 which the researchers acknowledge is in part as a result of better monitoring techniques. This means the lower figure actually masks the fact that some improvements have been made since the last survey.

– 62% of water bodies looked at in the study, published today, have concentrations of pollutants such as mercury and cadmium that are in excess of EU-wide environmental limits.

ENDS