Why should we care about this issue
a) Why should we care about this theme?
Water is the foundation of life. This resource is fragile and can be affected badly by human activities, fertilisers, chemicals and other substances.
Rivers are also important natural habitats. Besides water quality, the morphology of the river bed, the cross-linking of environs and the runoff regime are relevant criteria.
The state and impacts
b) What are the state (S) and impacts (I) related to this theme, including impacts on the natural environment and human health/well-being, both at national level as well as in transboundary terms?
Groundwater quality in Liechtenstein is very good. Three-quarters of the groundwater in the Rhine Basin is built up by infiltration of the Alpine-Rhine and it is also the main drinking water resource in Liechtenstein.
The water quality in rivers is mostly good. Many watercourses have spatial and structural shortcomings, and unnatural flow variations are a problem in some areas.
The key drivers and pressures
c) What are the related key drivers (D) and pressures (P) at national level?
The findings of the national groundwater monitoring show that the quality of groundwater is good.
The water network encompasses over 450 km of rivers. About 60 % have been considerably altered by construction work or are culverted. These watercourses, which are narrowed and often straightened, need space for their numerous functions.
The Alpine-Rhine at the border of Liechtenstein is affected by heavy short-term runoff variations due to the production of repetitive peak forward current at hydro-power plants upstream. Therefore, monitoring show shortcomings in evidence of the fish population.
The 2020 outlook
d) What is the 2020 outlook (date flexible) for the topic in question and how will this affect possible impacts on the natural environment and human health/well-being?
Within the framework of the implementation of the management plan according to EU WFD requirements and the ‘Development Plan Alpenrhein‘, the watercourses should get a good ecological status. The discharges from municipal wastewater and the intensive agricultural land utilisation of water should decrease, which should result in a lasting positive development for the environment as well as for human health.
Existing and planned responses
e) Which responses (R) have been put in place or are planned at national level for the theme in question?
In the Water Protection Act (GSchG) and the ordinance adopted under it, Liechtenstein has a firm legal basis for water protection. In the case of groundwater there is a raft of regulations to maintain or, if necessary, improve its quality and quantity. These include spatial planning measures such as creating designated groundwater protection zones and regulations governing protection and use.
The Water Protection Ordinance defines both the ecological targets and the water quality requirements for surface and subterranean waters. If pollution occurs, the responsible authority must order the necessary measures.
Liechtenstein is always interested in measures regarding little structured river morphology to guarantee the exchange between groundwater and surface waters. This is an important contribution to drinking water availability. In addition, this provides attractive recreational spaces for people.