River Basin Management Plan benefits slow to show

A report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) on the state of Europe’s water has found only 40% of surface waters are in good ecological status, and only 38% in good chemical status.

The latter figure resulted from contamination from just a few priority substances, such as mercury. The EEA said if these were omitted, only 3% would fail to achieve good chemical status.

The main significant pressures on surface water bodies were found to be hydromorphological pressures (40%), diffuse sources, particularly from agriculture (38%), and atmospheric deposition, particularly of mercury (38%), followed by point sources (18%) and water abstraction (7%).

Groundwaters performed significantly better: 74% achieved good chemical status and 89% good quantitative status.

The report was published ahead of the European Commission’s assessment of the second set of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and its evaluation of the Water Framework Directive.

The EEA said: “Overall, the second RBMPs show limited change in status, as most water bodies have the same status in both cycles. The proportion of water bodies with unknown status has decreased and confidence in status assessment has grown. Improvements are usually visible at the level of individual quality elements or pollutants but often do not translate into improved status overall.” However, it added: “It can be expected that, by the time the third RBMPs are drafted (2019-2021), some of the several thousand individual measures undertaken in the first and second RBMPs should have had a positive effect in terms of achieving good status.”