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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Emission intensity of the domestic sector in Europe / Emission intensity of the domestic sector in Europe (WREI 002) - Assessment published Feb 2014

Emission intensity of the domestic sector in Europe (WREI 002) - Assessment published Feb 2014

Indicator Assessment Created 22 Apr 2013 Published 24 Feb 2014 Last modified 05 Mar 2015, 02:57 PM

Generic metadata


Water Water (Primary topic)

Household consumption Household consumption

nutrient emissions | urban waste water | waste water discharge | water | treatment plants | emissions | nitrogen | phosphorus
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • WREI 002
Temporal coverage:
1990, 2000, 2009
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

Key policy question: Is nutrient emission in water from the domestic sector decoupling from population growth?

Key messages

Absolute decoupling of nutrient emissions from domestic sector and the population growth over the period of almost two decades (1990-2009) is observed in thirteen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia and Turkey). The actual extent of decoupling, and the differences in trends among countries, may be partially explained by different levels of numbers of inhabitants connected to tertiary wastewater treatment technologies

When making the EU wide comparison of the extend of decoupling of nutrient emissions from population growth, the actual rate of population connected to different types of treatment (elaborated in the CSI 024) should be taken into consideration, and completeness of the data available on population connected to collecting systems without treatment. The status of the implementation of the UWWTD which protects the water environment from the adverse effects of discharges of urban waste water, the level of investment in the water and wastewater management ,as well as the status of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Groundwater Directive may have an impact.   Furthermore household patterns as well as the household income level  affecting the production and composition of waste water should be considered as well.

It is assumed that the use of actual data on loads discharged from wastewater treatment plants combined with the load values calculated for population not connected to the waste water treatment would add value to the decoupling indicator, as it would better reflect the real situation..


Decoupling of nutrient emissions from urban waste water discharge and population growth

Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Nitrogen emission intensity of domestic sector

Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Phosphorus emission intensity of domestic sector

Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Key assessment

Most significant decoupling of domestic nutrients emission in water and the population growth was recorded in Greece,  Austria , where nitrogen emission decreased by about a half and phosphorus emission decreased by about 60 %, whereas the population grew by slightly less than 10%. Significant reduction in domestic nutrients emission in water over the last two decades, despite the population growth occurred also in  the Netherlands  (44,6% and 50,7% reduction of nitrogen emission load)Population growth in the Czech republic and Germany was not as high as in the Member States mentioned above (1,8% and 3,9% respectively) , however the reduction of nutrients loads discharged from domestic sector were also considerable (34% and 32% reduction of nitrogen emission load , 41% and 51%reduction of phosphorus emission load respectively). In Austria, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands at least four out of every five persons are connected to waste water treatment plants equipped with tertiary treatment. Decrease in emission coupled with decrease in population growth occurred in Estonia, Bulgaria  . However the rate of emission decrease was greater than the rate of population decrease.

The increase of nutrient emission observed in  Iceland, Sweden and Malta  may indicate an increasing  generation of pollution from households due to the population growth, whereas raising nutrient emission in case of Poland, where population growth over the last decade was insignificant, may be attributed to the data quality rather that the increasing generation of pollution. Values of nitrogen emission intensity for 2009 range from 1,41  to 4,09 kg of total nitrogen per inhabitant per year. The 2009 values for total phosphorus range from 0, 21 to 0, 88 kg per inhabitant per year. Over the period from 1990 to 2009 the nitrogen and phosphorus emission intensity decreased significantly in fivecountries (AT, DE, EL, NL, PT,) . These countries (except Portugal) reported a relatively high percentage of national population connected to waste water treatment and low percentage of population  connected to collecting systems without treatment or population without treatment.  In case of Portugal, the main factor affecting the decrease in emission intensity was about 30% decrease of population without treatment over the last two decades. 

Current calculation of the emission intensity, being based on default treatment efficiencies per type of treatment, mostly reflect the status of the waste water infrastructure in Europe, but does not make it possible to differentiate between countries that apply more advanced (and more efficient) treatment technologies and countries that implement the minimum requirements of the UWWTD. More precise data is presented in values of emission intensity for 2009 for AT, CZ, DE, DK, EE, LT, LU, NL, NO and SI as the last vertical bar in Fig. 2 and 3, respectively (based on emission data reported under the UWWTD) . The nitrogen emission intensity values calculated on the basis of default p.e. values are in average 20% higher than the values derived from reported nitrogen actual emissions. In case of phosphorus the differences are even higher, the calculated emission intensity values are about 30% higher than the values derived from reported emission data. This shows that several UWWTPs  perform better than the default values – and likely also than the UWWTD legal requirements – so optimising the performance and providing the data on actual emissions may further underpin such more positive picture of the real situation and developments in the waste water treatment in Europe.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

User not found: jacobsboo


EEA Management Plan

2012 1.4.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 2 years in July-September (Q3)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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