Freshwater (Czech Republic)
Why should we care about this issue
An adequate supply of clean water is vital, both for the environment and for human consumption.
The Czech Republic is located at the watershed of three seas and most of the Czech watercourses flow into neighbouring countries. Priority issues for freshwater are water quality and pollution. Even though surface water quality has improved significantly since the 1990s, there is still a need to focus on the discharge of pollution and improve wastewater treatment. Water quality is also affected by the increasing number and extremity of floods and droughts associated with climate change. Action is required here to help retain water in the landscape and support flood-protection measures. Given that droughts are increasingly frequent, the continuing decrease in water abstraction in the public sector and in industry should be applauded.
The key drivers and pressures
Changes in industry, public sector and wastewater treatment are the main positive drivers and pressures influencing water quality.
The construction and modernisation of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and sewerage systems has contributed significantly to reducing the pollution discharged into watercourses from point sources, particularly since the mid-1990s. The proportion of the population connected to public sewerage systems has increased from 72 % in 1990 to 81.1 % in 2008 (see Fig.). Between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of wastewater (excluding rainwater) treated and discharged into sewerage systems increased from 75 % to 95 % (see Fig.). Moreover, the percentage of tertiary treatment to remove problematic nutrients in new and modernised WWTPs has increased (see Fig.). Since 1990, the total number of WWTPs in the Czech Republic has more than tripled. The first new sewerage systems and WWTPs were constructed in larger towns and cities. This is because coverage in smaller municipalities, where the population density is lower, requires a larger financial outlay and the construction itself takes longer. More information: http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1776.
The positive developments in wastewater treatment are supported by the obligations under Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban wastewater treatment. The decrease in phosphorus emissions has also been supported by a ban on phosphates in detergents since October 2006 (see Fig.).
The presence of nutrients in freshwater can also be attributed to agriculture. After 1990, the use of inorganic fertilisers decreased significantly in connection with the transformation of agriculture and an increase in the cost of fertilisers. From 1993, the use of inorganic nitrogen fertilisers started to increase, mainly to compensate for the decrease in applied nitrogen from livestock manure production. From 2000, the balance in inputs minus outputs increased to 60–73 kg N per hectare, which is reasonable given the climatic conditions in the Czech Republic. However, the use of nitrogen in organic fertilisation is a very one sided affair causing many problems. Nitrogen run-off into water from agriculture is influenced by erosion, soil compaction, inappropriate agricultural techniques and the storage of fertilisers and livestock manure. The average amount of nitrogen run-off from agriculture on Czech territory is approximately two-thirds of the balance (see Fig. (for soil surface nitrogen balance) and Fig. (for soil surface phosphorus balance)).
The 2020 outlook
A total of 8 % of surface waters and groundwater sites will require more than 15 years to reduce the concentration of nitrate to a level below 50 mg/l.
Plans are being implemented to achieve a good state of water quality in Czech water bodies by 2015. The instruments being applied to achieve this objective are Programmes of Measures, available for each specific river basin under its area plan and for international catchment areas under its International part of the River Basin Management Plans: http://www.mzp.cz/en/water_planning.
The timetable for recovery of waters polluted or threatened by nitrogen pollution from agricultural sources is presented in this Table. The future evaluation estimates are only indicative because of the inevitable uncertainty in forecasting and the delayed effect of measures in the aquatic environment. Surface water profiles and groundwater sites exhibiting a substantial delay in the decrease of nitrate concentrations below a level of 50 mg/l or for which an increase was recorded represent a special category (IV) in the figure. The status of most of these sites confirms the revision of vulnerable zones in 2007. Consequently, greater attention will be focused on these monitoring sites and their river basins and the relevant groundwater areas during implementation of the action programmes. More information: Report of the Czech Republic according to Council Directive 91/676/EEC, 2008.
Existing and planned responses
Implementing EU directives and making amendments to national legislation to solve problems in water quality and management.
- Permissible surface and wastewater pollution levels are stipulated in Government Regulation No 61/2003 Coll. as amended by Government Regulation No 229/2007 Coll.
- The criteria for improving water quality are based on the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC. River basin management plans 2009–2015 were finalised in December 2009 for all eight of the main river basins in the Czech Republic. More information: http://www.mzp.cz/en/water_planning.
- In recognition of its responsibility for reducing the pollution flowing out of its territory, the Czech Republic has designated the whole country as a sensitive area and is now striving to meet the requirements of Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste-water treatment.
- The Nitrates Directive 91/676/EEC has been implemented in the Czech Republic through Government Regulation No 103/2003 Coll. This Regulation has defined vulnerable zones, conditions for the use and storage of fertilisers and livestock manure, crop rotation and implementation of anti-erosion measures in these zones. The status of the vulnerable zones was revised in 2007. A second action programme was established for the period 2008–2011. Additional information: Report of the Czech Republic according to Council Directive 91/676/EEC, 2008.