European waters - assessment of status and pressures

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

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.

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