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In general, renewable water is abundant in Europe. However, signals from long-term climate and hydrological assessments, including on population dynamics, indicate that there was a 24 % decrease in renewable water resources per capita across Europe between 1960 and 2010, particularly in southern Europe.
The densely populated river basins in different parts of Europe, which correspond to 11 % of the total area of Europe, continue to be hotspots for water stress conditions, and, in the summer of 2014, there were 86 million inhabitants in these areas.
Around 40 % of the inhabitants in the Mediterranean region lived under water stress conditions in the summer of 2014.
Groundwater resources and rivers continue to be affected by overexploitation in many parts of Europe, especially in the western and eastern European basins.
A positive development is that water abstraction decreased by around 7 % between 2002 and 2014.
Agriculture is still the main pressure on renewable water resources. In the spring of 2014, this sector used 66 % of the total water used in Europe. Around 80 % of total water abstraction for agriculture occurred in the Mediterranean region. The total irrigated area in southern Europe increased by 12 % between 2002 and 2014, but the total harvested agricultural production decreased by 36 % in the same period in this region.
On average, water supply for households per capita is around 102 L/person per day in Europe, which means that there is 'no water stress'. However, water scarcity conditions created by population growth and urbanisation, including tourism, have particularly affected small Mediterranean islands and highly populated areas in recent years.
Because of the huge volumes of water abstracted for hydropower and cooling, the hydromorphology and natural hydrological regimes of rivers and lakes continue to be altered.
The targets set in the water scarcity roadmap, as well as the key objectives of the Seventh Environment Action Programme in the context of water quantity, were not achieved in Europe for the years 2002–2014.
The intensity of heavy precipitation events in summer and winter have increased in northern and north-eastern Europe since the 1960s. Different indices show diverging trends for south-western and southern Europe.
Heavy precipitation events are likely to become more frequent in most parts of Europe. The projected changes are strongest in Scandinavia and eastern Europe in winter.
Drought has been a recurrent feature of the European climate. From 2006–2010, on average 15 % of the EU territory and 17 % of the EU population have been affected by meteorological droughts each year.
The severity and frequency of meteorological and hydrological droughts have increased in parts of Europe, in particular in south-western and central Europe.
Available studies project large increases in the frequency, duration and severity of meteorological and hydrological droughts in most of Europe over the 21st century, except for northern European regions. The greatest increase in drought conditions is projected for southern Europe, where it would increase competition between different water users, such as agriculture, industry, tourism and households.
River and coastal flooding have affected many millions of people in Europe since 2000. Flooding affects human health through drowning, heart attacks, injuries, infections, exposure to chemical hazards and mental health consequences. Disruption of services, including health services, safe water, sanitation and transportation ways, plays a major role in vulnerability.
Observed increases in heavy precipitation and extreme coastal water levels have increased the risk of river and coastal flooding in many European regions.
In the absence of additional adaptation, the projected increases in extreme precipitation events and in sea level would substantially increase the health risks associated with river and coastal flooding in Europe.
Water temperatures in major European rivers have increased by 1–3 °C over the last century. Several time series show increasing lake and river temperatures all over Europe since the early 1900s.
Lake and river surface water temperatures are projected to increase further with projected increases in air temperature.
Increased water temperature can result in marked changes in species composition and functioning of aquatic ecosystems.
Almost 1 500 floods have been reported for Europe since 1980, of which more than half have occurred since 2000.
The number of very severe flood events in Europe increased over the period 1980–2010, but with large interannual variability. This increase has been attributed to better reporting, land-use changes and increased heavy precipitation in parts of Europe, but it is not currently possible to quantify the importance of these factors.
Global warming is projected to intensify the hydrological cycle and increase the occurrence and frequency of flood events in large parts of Europe.
Pluvial floods and flash floods, which are triggered by intense local precipitation events, are likely to become more frequent throughout Europe. In regions with projected reduced snow accumulation during winter, the risk of early spring flooding could decrease. However, quantitative projections of changes in flood frequency and magnitude remain highly uncertain.
Available studies suggest that run-off in near-natural rivers during the period 1963–2000 increased in western and northern Europe, in particular in winter, and decreased in southern and parts of eastern Europe, in particular in summer. However, comprehensive observation data on river flows are not available across Europe.
Long-term trends in river flows due to climate change are difficult to detect because of substantial interannual and decadal variability, as well as modifications to natural water flows arising from water abstractions, morphological changes (such as man-made reservoirs) and land-use changes.
Climate change is projected to result in significant changes in the seasonality of river flows across Europe. Summer flows are projected to decrease in most of Europe, including in regions where annual flows are projected to increase. Where precipitation shifts from snow to rain, spring and summer peak flow will shift to earlier in the season.
The manufacturing industry in 11 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) has achieved absolute decoupling of nutrient emissions from economic growth (GVA). A decrease in emissions coupled with a decrease in gross value added (GVA) occurred in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium and Finland. However, in all cases (except Finland), the rate of emissions decrease was greater than that of GVA. An increase in nutrient emissions, accompanying the growth in GVA, was observed in Slovakia and Poland.
These developments arise from different absolute levels of emissions intensities and depend on there being no major changes in data coverage - such as including more facilities in the most recent reporting year despite them already existing in the earliest reporting year - within the countries during the reporting period. It should be noted that, as some industrial emissions may vary considerably from year to year, the comparison of just two selected years might be subject to variations, and not be representative of a consistent trend.
The achievement of absolute decoupling of manufacturing industries' heavy metals emissions from economic growth (GVA) was observed again in 12 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden). A decrease in emissions, coupled with a decrease in GVA occurred in the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. In all cases, the decrease in the rate of emissions was greater than that of GVA (relative decoupling). An increase in emissions, despite a drop in GVA, was observed in Finland and France. Finally, a growth in emissions accompanying economic growth occurred in the manufacturing industry in Hungary.
Given the multiple factors that affect both sectoral GVA and the pollution pressure originating from manufacturing, it is complicated to draw direct relationships between these two variables. Some key descriptors, which could aid in explaining this behaviour, are the structure of the sector (e.g. facility size distribution, production technology, relative proportion reported as E-PRTR releases), the socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. salary levels) of the area and the policy and/or economic measures in place (e.g. treatment requirements, pollution charges, taxes). However, it must be noted that the specific context of each country could result in varying combinations of the factors mentioned and their aggregate effects.
Between 1985 and 2012, 7% of all stations in European seas that reported to the EEA showed decreasing trends in summer chlorophyll concentrations, whereas in 4% of the stations, increasing trends were found. In the majority of the stations (89%), no trends were observed.
Based on available data, chlorophyll concentrations, which are an indicator of eutrophication, are decreasing in the Greater North Sea, Bay of Biscay and Adriatic Sea, but increasing in many parts of the Baltic Sea. No trend assessment was possible for the Black Sea.
Between 1985 and 2012, m ost stations in European Seas that reported to the EEA showed no change in trends of concentrations of Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) or orthophosphate. In addition, a decrease in concentrations was observed for 14% and 13% respectively, while only a minority of stations showed an increase.
These trends mostly refer to stations in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, however, due to lack of reported data for other regional seas. A vailable data shows nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations are decreasing in the southern North Sea which is an area with a recognised eutrophication problem. In the Baltic Sea, also affected by eutrophication, nitrogen concentrations are decreasing but phosphate concentrations show an increase at some stations.
In 2012, the concentrations of the eight assessed hazardous substances were generally: Low or Moderate for Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and lindane; Moderate for cadmium, mercury, lead, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and 6-Benzylaminopurine BAP; and Moderate or High for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
A general downward trend was found between 2003 and 2012 in the North-East Atlantic for cadmium, lead, lindane, PCB, DDT and BAP, and also in the Baltic Sea for lindane and PCB. No trends could be calculated for the other regional seas.
Concentrations of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total ammonium have decreased in European rivers in the period 1992 to 2012 (Fig. 1), mainly due to general improvement in waste water treatment.
Since 2005, average nitrate concentrations in European groundwater have declined and in 2011, the mean concentration had almost returned to the 1992 level.
The average nitrate concentration in European rivers declined by 0.03 milligrams per liter of nitrogen (mg N/l) (0.8%) per year over the period 1992 to 2012.
The decline in nitrate concentration reflects the effect of measures to reduce agricultural inputs of nitrate, as well as improvements in wastewater treatment.
Average orthophosphate concentration in European rivers has decreased markedly over the last two decades (0.003 milligrams per liter of phosphorous (mg P/l) or 2.1% per year).
Also, average lake phosphorus concentration decreased over the period 1992-2012 (0.0004 mg P/l, or 0.8% per year).
The decrease in phosphorus concentration reflects both improvements in wastewater treatment and the reduction of phosphorus in detergents.
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..
Nitrogen emission to water: Absolute decoupling of nitrogen emissions from GVA is observed in seven countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia ). This means that these countries succeeded in economy growth while reducing emissions to water. As the area of agriculture land remained constant during the analyzed period, the decrease in emission can be attributed to decrease in specific gross nutrient balance per hectare.
Relative decoupling was observed in the Czech Republic, and Poland. This means that the resource efficiency has increased, however with higher absolute emissions. Decreases in emissions coupled with a decrease in GVA occurred in 11 countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom). In six out of those 11 countries, the rate of emission decrease was greater than the rate of the GVA decrease.
Phosphorus emission to water: Absolute decoupling of phosphorus emissions from the GVA is observed in five countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Slovenia). Decrease in emission coupled with decrease in GVA occurred in ten countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom). In all these countries except Denmark, the rate of emission decrease was greater than the rate of the decrease of GVA.
The ranges of nutrient emission intensity of agriculture are quite wide and reflect varieties of agriculture practices across European countries.
Values of nitrogen emission intensity for 2008 range from 6,0 to 176 tons of total nitrogen per million EUR GVA per year. Significant decrease in nitrogen emission intensity between 2000 and 2008 was recorded in Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In 2008 Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania reported (in Eurostat) the lowest values of the specific nitrogen balance per hectare. In creased emission intensity was observed in Denmark, Ireland and United Kingdom, however, this was due to a falling GVA not to emissions, which actually were reduced. Calculation of emission intensity based on GVA diminished by subsidies, which reflects better the actual economic performance from agriculture, result in much higher emission intensities for countries, e.g., Norway, Finland , Lithuania and Poland with relatively high contributions from subsidies to the economy.. The increment in emission intensity associated with excluding subsidies is significant namely in Norway (106 t/mio EUR/y) and Finland (38,8 t/mio EUR/y).
The 2008 values for total phosphorus emission intensity range from 0,47 to 13,03 tons per million EUR GVA per year. Significant decrease in the phosphorus emission intensity (decrease by more than 50%) over the last decade was recorded in nine countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech republic, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia). Moreover, Austria, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Portugal, reported (Eurostat) the lowest values of the specific phosphorus balance per hectare comparable to the EU-27 average, being 1 kg of total phosphorus per hectare per year. The impact of subsidies on phosphorus emission intensity (based on 2008 data), was most significant in Norway and Finland, where the increment in emission intensity associated with excluding subsidies accounted for 16,24 and 3,49 t/mio EUR/y respectively , whereas the increment in remaining countries did not exceed 1 t/mio EUR/y.
Subsidies: The analysis of subsidies on the output of the agricultural industry for the studied years showed that 13 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom) reduced the proportion of subsidies in relation to the GVA of their agricultural sector between 2000 and 2008. On the other hand, 5 countries (Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) increased this proportion during the same period. Information was incomplete for Bulgaria and Germany, where subsidy levels for years 2000 and 2008 respectively were reported as zero (Eurostat). Noteworthy is the sharp increase in the proportion of subsidies as part of GVA (being in the range between 12-26 % of GVA) in new Member States like Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia accompanied by the increase of GVA values. And, on the other hand, the significant reductions in old Member States like Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Given the multiple factors that affect both the change in sectoral GVA and in nutrient balance, it is complicated to draw direct relationships between these two variables. Some key descriptors which could aid in explaining the behavior of these are the structure of the sector (e.g. farm size, standard gross margins, crop type, stocking rate), the socioeconomic characteristics of the area (e.g. rural population, income and employment levels) and the policy measures in place (e.g. subsidies). However, it must be noted that the specific context of each country could result in varying combinations of the mentioned factors and their aggregate effects.
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 over the last ten years. Latest values of population connected to wastewater treatment in the Southern countries are comparable to the values of Central and Northern countries, whereas the values of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe are still relatively low compared to Central and Northern Europe.
The quality of water at designated bathing waters in Europe (coastal and inland) has improved significantly since 1990.
Compliance with mandatory values in EU coastal bathing waters increased from just below 80 % in 1990 to 93.1 % in 2011. Compliance with guide values likewise rose from over 68 % to 80.1 % in 2011.
Compliance with mandatory values in EU inland bathing waters increased from over 52 % in 1990 to 89.9 % in 2011. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values moved from over 36 % in 1990 to 70.4 % in 2011.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/indicators or scan the QR code.
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