Water bodies must improve to hit 2015 ecological target

Water pollution affecting the ecology of many of Europe's lakes, rivers, and coastal waters is likely to prevent the water bodies reaching 'good' status by 2015, a target set by the EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD), according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Released this week, the report, European waters – assessment of status and pressures, considers the status of 104,000 rivers, 19,000 lakes, and 4000 transitional and coastal water bodies reported by EU Member States according to the WFD and the river basin management plans (RBMPs).

The report claims that water bodies are generally improving, but not fast enough to meet the targets set by the WFD. It adds that only 52% of water bodies are predicted to achieve ‘good’ ecological status by 2015, according to Member States own plans.

EEA executive director, Jacqueline McGlade, said: “European waters have improved a great deal over the last two decades, as legislation has successfully reduced many types of pollution and improved wastewater treatment.

“But EU Member States look set to miss upcoming targets by a wide margin, so they need to urgently step up efforts to protect both human health and the ecosystems we rely on,” she added.

More than half of the surface water bodies in Europe were reported to be below ‘good’ ecological status or potential status, according to the latest data showing status up to 2009.

To maintain and improve the essential functions of our water ecosystems, they need to be managed better, the report says.

“This can only succeed if an integrated approach is adopted, as introduced in the WFD and related water legislation. All sectors in a river basin need to fully implement the WFD to reduce pressures on water bodies, ensuring all users are committed to healthy water bodies achieving good status,” the EEA said in a statement.

Last week, environmental leaders warned that the risk of flooding and water shortage in 2013 has increased in the UK because the Government has been ‘too slow’ in taking action to improve water management.

According to the group of 16 leading environmental organisations, a long-term, sustainable approach is needed which “works with our natural water systems” to avoid increasing water problems.

Leigh Stringer

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