Water pollution is decreasing but read the small print

The good news is that water pollution caused by nitrates has decreased in Europe over the past two decades.  However, agricultural pressures are still putting water resources under strain. 

  • The latest Report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive reveals that nitrates concentrations are slightly decreasing in both surface and groundwater and sustainable agricultural practices are more widespread.
  • Although the overall trend is positive, nitrates pollution and eutrophication – the excess growth of weeds and algae that suffocates life in rivers and seas – are still causing problems in many Member States and further action is needed to bring the waters in the European Union to a good status within a reasonable timescale.
  • Excessive concentrations of nitrates from livestock such as pig, cow and poultry manure and crops fertilisation leaches into waters causing algal blooms, disrupting aquatic ecosystems, causing air pollution and threatening biodiversity.

Whereas the Nitrates Directive has been in force since 1992, its full implementation is still an issue in some Member States, including Bulgaria, France, Greece, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia.

Several Member States and regions still have a high percentage of nitrate-polluted and eutrophic waters.

The latest assessments of the Water Framework Directive implementation, as well as studies carried out in the framework of international conventions show that diffuse sources of pollution pose most obstacles in achieving good status in EU waters. For this reason, the recent Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources identifies the Nitrates Directive as one of the key measures to achieve WFD objectives.

SourceEU Press

ECOS Environmental Consultants Limited