EEA reviews new findings from 2012, the Year of Water

Change language
News Published 21 Dec 2012 Last modified 21 Jun 2016
3 min read
Photo: © Petri Damstén
Europe needs to work harder to protect its water resources from increasing pressures. This was one of the messages that emerged during 2012, ‘European Year of Water’. The European Environment Agency (EEA) also presented important findings in many other areas, including air, climate, biodiversity and chemicals.

What did we learn about water in 2012?

Europe needs to redouble efforts to keep sufficient quantity and quality of fresh water to maintain  our ecosystems that sustain our society and economy, according to a series of reports published by the EEA during 2012 assessing the state of European waters. These reports evaluated critical aspects of water to support policymaking, focusing on resource efficiency and water economics, ecological and chemical status, hydro-morphology, vulnerability and biodiversity.

  • Almost half of Europe’s water bodies will miss the target set by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and still be in poor ecological status in 2015.  
  • ‘Hydromorphological’ changes, such as dams, straightening and dredging can also damage ecosystems, preventing migration and spawning. This affects around 40 % of rivers and transitional water bodies and 30 % of the lakes.
  • Water use often exceeds water availability, resulting in water stress across much of Europe. This has knock-on effects for the economy and the natural world.
  • Drought is increasing across Europe. The number of countries affected by drought per decade increased from 15 in the period 1971–1980, to 28 in the period 2001–2011. Climate change is expected to exacerbate this problem.
  • The EEA also reported that the quality of bathing water across Europe declined slightly between 2009 and 2010, but the overall quality was still high. More than nine out of 10 bathing water sites met the minimum requirements in 2011.
  • More positively, the EEA is working with new partners to improve its water data. In December the EEA met with water utilities from across Europe, as a first step to sharing data and improving knowledge on water resources.
  • Solutions to many of Europe’s water problems have been analysed in the European Commission’s Water Blueprint, published in 2012, which was supported by the EEA’s water reports in 2012.

All water related EEA findings 2012 can be found on our overview page.

Elsewhere in Europe’s environment

In 2013, the EEA will support ‘European Year of Air’ with data and analysis. This will feed into the European Commission’s review of air quality legislation.


Geographic coverage

Document Actions