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Water and marine environment

Securing the sustainable use of water remains a key challenge

Clean water is an essential resource for human health, agriculture, energy production, transport and nature. But it is also under multiple pressures. Currently, only 40% of Europe’s surface water bodies achieve good ecological status. In addition, even though EU countries have managed to reduce selected pressures, the status of our marine ecosystems remains critical, both in terms of species and habitats. More efforts are needed to achieve Europe's freshwater and marine-related environmental targets.

State of bathing waters in 2019

This map shows bathing water locations and their quality for the latest as well as previous bathing seasons. All symbols are coloured according to achieved quality status in the most recent season. Data are presented on two levels: country (less detailed scales) and bathing water (more detailed scales).

Data sources:

Most of Europe’s drinking water and a significant proportion of water used in irrigation come from groundwater. A European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today on World Water Day, provides a European overview of this key resource that is under increasing pressure from pollution, abstraction and climate change.

Pesticides can end up in rivers, lakes and groundwaters, with potential to harm aquatic ecosystems and water quality. The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) new indicator, which aims to track Europe’s progress in reducing pesticides in waters, shows that excessive levels of pesticides have been recorded in a considerable share of European freshwaters.

Collection and treatment of waste water are key to reducing pressures and risks to human health and the environment, especially to rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published data today, on World Toilet Day, which show that the share of urban waste waters that are collected and treated in line with EU standards is increasing across Europe.

Published: 22 Mar 2022

Groundwater, making the invisible visible is the World Water Day theme for 22nd March 2022. Groundwater stores almost 1/3 of global total freshwater resources, but pollution may prevent its use. In the EU, groundwater supplies 65 % of drinking water and 25 % of the water for agricultural irrigation. Groundwater pollution is a serious threat to drinking water quality. Once polluted, recovery is not easily achieved because there is no fast way to remove pollutants. This also means that polluting substances can accumulate. Furthermore, groundwater resources are under increasing pressure from water abstraction and climate change. In the EU, 24% of the total groundwater body area was reported in poor chemical status and 9 % in poor quantitative status according to Water Framework Directive 2nd River Basin Management reports in 2016. This briefing provides an overview on the state of the art with groundwater in the EU as contribution to the celebration of the World Water Day in 2022.

Published: 27 Oct 2021

This report aims to update our knowledge of water stress (a general term that includes drought and water scarcity) in Europe to inform policymakers and interested stakeholders about the current state of play.

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