Dutch dive into Eastern European monitoring

Consulting and engineering company, Arcadis Euroconsult of The Netherlands has led three major projects monitoring waterways in Hungary, Poland and Romania this year.


In a 14-month project, co-funded by the EU and the Ministry of Environment and Water of Hungary (MoEW), an Ecological Survey of Surface Waters for the implementation of the WFD in Hungary (ECOSURV) was undertaken. It included three main goals:

  1. To develop methods for quantitative sampling of all biological quality elements (BQEs).
  2. To perform a nation-wide field survey.
  3. To validate the abiotic typology of surface waters with ecological data and to assess the current ecological status.

Hungary lies entirely within the Danube basin, and most of its surface waters originate in other countries. The main transboundary rivers are the Danube and the Tisza, while Lake Balaton is the largest shallow lake in Europe.

International cooperation through the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and inter-calibration are very important. Hungary was long overdue an ecological monitoring survey and ECOSURV has brought this into being. The ICPDR regard ECOSURV as a valuable pilot project as its methods and data are considered important for other Danube states as well.

The WFD aims for a good ecological status or potential for all surface water bodies. It distinguishes surveillance, operational and investigative monitoring programmes for all categories and types of surface water and groundwater.

For surface waters, a distinction is made in several quality elements (QEs): chemical (priority substances), biological (living organisms), physico-chemical (setting the conditions for the biology), and hydro-morphological. The latter three together are included in the assessment of the ecological status. The final water body status is defined by the combination of the ecological status and the chemical status.

ECOSURV is the first national survey in Europe to have developed monitoring methods for all BQEs: fish, macro-invertebrates, macrophytes, phytoplankton, and phytobenthos, both for running waters and standing waters. WFD-compliant sampling methods had not been introduced in Hungary before ECOSURV, and methods were largely derived from EN/ISO standards and adjusted to Hungary’s circumstances.

Several BQEs had never previously been monitored, on a large scale, in Hungary. Methods were adjusted for budget, time, legislative and ethical constraints in order to sample as many sites as possible. Methods for the status assessment were also developed within ECOSURV.

Some 500,000 specimens were determined, down to species level. Statistical analysis will be used to validate the typology and to assess the current status of water bodies. Index systems have been selected and preliminary class boundaries have been proposed.

Hungary will have to further refine the assessment methods and class boundaries in the future. Continuation of sampling programmes is needed to generate sufficient data for this exercise.

The MoEW had provided a list of 400 sites, covering all types and different degrees of degradation. Sites were selected close to existing monitoring stations where possible. The contractor selected an optimal mix of BQEs for 374 sites within the ¬1 million budget. Time and budget constraints meant that each BQE was sampled only once and sampling periods were optimised per BQE.

ECOSURV’s project database now has 500,000 biological records and chemical and hydromorphological data from all sampling sites. Hungary has information on the actual status of its most important water bodies.

The data will serve as the basis for further development of monitoring networks and assessment systems. A manual for the future sampling and status assessment was also produced.

Recommendations are given for future monitoring networks. Training to biologists from each of the river basins and for all BQEs was provided in the field and in workshops.


The vast experience gained from ECOSURV Hungary, proved very useful in the Polish project as well. A broad technical assistance project was carried out, comprising river basin management planning, economic analysis, public involvement, and monitoring. The project included training courses for all aspects of the WFD, and for biological monitoring in particular.

Similarily, the Polish experience helped Hungary in the assessment of data collected. A further example of international cooperation and sharing of experiences, thanks to international consultancy activities.

The technical assistance project for the implementation of the WFD in Poland was co-funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Environment and Water of Poland. It was implemented by Arcadis Euroconsult, Proeko and BCEOM.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie