1.1 Background

The European Topic Centre on Inland Waters (ETC/IW) was appointed in December 1994 by the Management Board of the European Environment Agency (EEA) to act as a centre of expertise for use by the Agency and to undertake part of the EEA’s multi-annual research programme. The Technical Workplan of the ETC/IW was submitted to, and approved by, the EEA in January 1995, and the key Task of the first year’s programme was to design a freshwater monitoring network for the EEA area. This has been achieved through a series of complementary Tasks, the outcome of which is described in this report. This report summarises the main points arising from the complimentary Tasks, in particular how the findings relate to the design of the network, and then outlines the structure of the proposed monitoring network. The detailed reports on each of the associated Tasks will be presented in the Project Record report of the whole year’s programme. The network design was presented and discussed at a Workshop 3-4 June 1996 in Madrid. The design has been slightly modified as a result of comments received at the workshop and from further peer review. The network design is during 1996 being piloted in up to ten EEA countries, and will subsequently be progressively implemented throughout the EEA area in a planned and programmed way.

1.2 Role of the EEA

The main duties of the EEA are:

  • to provide objective, reliable and comparable information for those concerned with framing, implementation and further developing European environmental policy, and for the wider European public;
  • to identify, prepare and evaluate suitable environmental measures, guidelines and legislation;
  • to co-ordinate the EIONET network and publish a report on the state of Europe’s environment every three years;
  • to liaise with other relevant national, regional and global environmental programmes and institutions.

The first priority for the Agency is to establish itself as a reliable and independent source of information on the environment, produced at low cost from the best available sources. The main source of this information will result from national and international monitoring programmes.


Monitoring can be divided into three broad categories or types.

  1. Statutory monitoring by which a state meets its legal obligations arising from EC and national legislation and international agreements.
  2. Surveillance monitoring through which a broad view and comparison of water resource quality and quantity can be obtained across a State (or across Europe). This type of monitoring is usually used to make spatial and temporal comparisons.
  3. Operational monitoring which is undertaken to meet the specific business and operational needs of the regulators or users of water. Examples might be the monitoring of specific discharges, clean-up campaigns on specific catchments or monitoring after pollution incidents.

There are likely to be overlaps between the three categories, and a Member State would be keen to use existing monitoring sites for a number of purposes rather than establish new sites for new statutory needs.

It would seem, therefore, that the main type of monitoring information required by the Agency at present is for surveillance purposes. This type of information was used in the production of the ‘Europe’s Environment - the Dobríš Assessment, and the Agency may in the future be asked to update that report and to produce more detailed monographs on specific parts of the environment.

In terms of the current work programme for the ETC/IW it was not possible to audit the implementation of EC environmental legislation nor to define what specific monitoring is undertaken for each Directive within each Member State. Our immediate aim was, therefore, to design a surveillance type monitoring network bearing in mind that the needs of the Agency may change according to political circumstances and that the design of the network may need adapting to these changes.

A proposed overall objective of the monitoring network is:

"To obtain timely, quantitative and comparable information on the status of inland waters (groundwater, lakes/reservoirs, rivers and estuaries) from all EEA Member States so that valid temporal and spatial comparisons can be made and so that key environmental problems associated with Europe’s inland waters can be defined, quantified and monitored".



Document Actions