Urban waste water treatment (CSI 024/WAT 005) - Assessment published Jan 2009
Water (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 024
- WAT 005
Key policy question: How effective are existing policies in reducing loading discharges of nutrients and organic matter?
Wastewater treatment in all parts of Europe has improved during the last 15-20 years. The percentage of the population connected to wastewater treatment in the southern, south-eastern and eastern Europe has increased during last ten years, but is still relative low compared to the central and northern Europe.
Changes in wastewater treatment in regions of Europe between 1990 and 2005
Note: Only countries with data from (almost) all periods were included, the numbers of countries are given in parentheses
EEA-ETC/WTR based on country data reported to OECD/EUROSTAT Joint Questionnaire. Data are available at Eurostat data tables.
The main objective of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive is to protect the environment from the adverse effects of urban waste water discharges and discharges from certain industrial sectors and the measures concerns the collection, treatment and discharge of most of the waste water.
As a rule, the UWWT Directive provides for biological waste water treatment (secondary treatment), and thus a drastic reduction of the biodegradable pollution in waste water - which otherwise would severely impact on oxygen balance and ecosystems of our waters. In the catchments of particularly sensitive waters (sensitive areas), such as those suffering from eutrophication, more stringent treatment measures are required, to additionally eliminate nutrient pollution (nitrogen and phosphorus) from waste water (tertiary treatment).
The success indicators used in this assessment to measure the reduction in discharges of nutrients and organic matter from urban waste water to European surface waters are:
1. Percentage of population connected to waste water treatment.
2. Percentage of waste water given tertiary treatment.
1. Percentage of population connected to waste water treatment (Fig. 1 and the individual countries in Fig. 2-6). In northern and also in southern European countries more than 80 % of the population is connected to waste water treatment. In sparcely populated countries with a relative high proportion of the population living in scattered dwellings these dwelling are not connected to collecting systems and normally served by individual waste water treatment (e.g. septic tanks). In central Europe more than 90 % is connected. In eastern Europe only 50 % is connected (last data are from 2002, so this percentage may be higher now), whereas in south-eastern Europe (Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania) there is only 35 % that are connected to waste water treatment plants.
2. Percentage of waste water given tertiary treatment (yellow color on Fig. 1 to 6). Most of the population in the northern countries is connected to waste water treatment plants with the highest levels of treatment (tertiary), which efficiently removes nutrients (phosphorus or nitrogen or both) and organic matter. More than half of the waste water in central European countries is subject to tertiary treatment. In southern and eastern Europe only 20 % get tertiary treatment. Around half of the wastewater in southern European countries and 25 % in eastern Europe receive only secondary treatment. In south-eastern Europe the level of tertiary treatment is minor (< 5 %), whereas 20 % is subject to secondary treatment.
Specific policy question: What is the level of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/ECC) implementation in large cities of the EU Member States?
Number of EU15 agglomerations of more than 150 000 p.e. by treatment level, situation on 1st January 2003.
The lastest from 2007 EU Commissions Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive implementation report can be found on http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/implrep2007/index_en.htm. According to this report waste water treatment in 349 out of the 571 big cities of
Further information can be found in the WISE section on Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/water-pollution/prevention-strategies/urban-waste-water-treatment-directive.
Specific assessments of waste water treatment in different countries:
Northern Europe: Most of the waste water (80%) in Finland, Sweden and Norway receives tertiary treatment (Fig. 2), while in Iceland the waste water from half of the population is not treated at all and the other half only receive primary treatment. The trends in the rate of national population connected to the UWWTPs are affected by changes in the ratio of rural/urban population as well as by increasing use of separate individual treatment plants in rural areas.
Central Europe: In
Southern Europe: The best situation is in
Eastern Europe: More than 65 % of the population in the
South-Eastern Europe: In south eastern European countries (
Waterbase - UWWTD: Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
6th Commission Summary on the Implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
Water statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoPeter Kristensen
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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