Status and monitoring — overview

Page Last modified 07 Nov 2018
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The European continent is made up of several million kilometres of flowing water and more than a million lakes. Europe is surrounded by nine sea basins: the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea, the White Sea, the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the North Atlantic Ocean.

All these waters have their own characteristics and environmental problems. The climatic conditions of the catchment area, for example rain, bedrock geology and soil type all influence the water flow and the mineral content of the water. Similarly, human activity affects surface water and groundwater through afforestation, urbanisation, land drainage, pollutant discharge and flow regulation (i.e. dams and channelisation).

The assessment of the environmental state of European surface waters comprises the collection and aggregation of a huge amount of information. It serves four purposes:

  • To identify areas with severe environmental problems
  • To provide a basis for the identification and assessment of environmental threats at regional and global levels
  • To provide information necessary to ensure that society develops in an environmentally sustainable way
  • To facilitate action being taken to improve the environmental state of the water bodies

Reliable, high quality information about the environmental state of surface waters is essential for water management and for improving the environmental quality of Europe’s waters, especially in relation to the Water Framework Directive.


Monitoring and assessment of the environmental state of European waters are performed by numerous regional and national authorities. Results from national monitoring programmes and monitoring at river basin district scale under the Water Framework Directive are the most important ways of getting an overview of Europe's water quality and the pressures affecting the quality.

The EEA has outlined the following types of state of the environment (SOE) assessments of Europe's waters to be carried out:

  1. Assessment of the state of and trends in the water environment in relation to European water policy, such as the Water Framework Directive. For the marine area, SOE assessments will be developed in line with the requirements identified in the European Marine Strategy. These assessments use indicators like the EEA Core Set of Indicators (CSI) and other more specific indicators which require data and information representative of river stretches/water bodies and catchments.
  2. Broader assessment of specific water-related issues, such as eutrophication, hazardous substances, water abstraction and use, hydro-morphological impacts as well as goods and services deriving from aquatic ecosystems.
  3. Assessment of the impact on water resources of specific sectors, such as agriculture, hydropower, industry, navigation, tourism and water management.

The EEA data and information needs for SOE assessments of Europe's waters come exclusively from national monitoring networks set up for a variety of purposes, e.g. for the Water Framework Directive. The monitoring network established by the EEA with its member countries is further described in Eionet-water.

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Filed under: water quality
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