Agency reports progress and challenges for water in Europe

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A new European Environment Agency (EEA) report has found that the quality of drinking water and bathing water, and the effectiveness of wastewater treatment across the EU is continuing to improve.

However, pollution from sources such as wastewater treatment plants, agricultural runoff and stormwater overflows, and emerging risks such as micropollutants from personal care products can pose challenges in maintaining clean and healthy water.

The European water policies and human health report combines reviews of three key acts, the Bathing Water Directive, Drinking Water Directive and the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, which contribute to achieving the Water Framework Directive.

The review found that bathing water quality across the EU continues to be high, with the percentage of bathing water sites meeting minimum standards increasing to 96.1% in 2015.

On clean drinking water, testing and analysis from 2011-2013 show compliance of over 98.5%. Wastewater treatment achievements are said to be ‘in general very high, while, though improving, in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the proportion of population connected to wastewater treatment is still relatively low compared to Central and Northern Europe.’

Pollution from agriculture and stormwater overflows continues to pose water quality problems, the report notes, with nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants, industry and agricultural emissions remaining the main sources of nutrient and organic pollution.

The report also highlights emerging pollutants such as microplastics, which it says ‘present risks which need to be better understood’.


  • Europe, municipal wastewater, municipal water, nutrients, microplastics