Brussels (Brussels Morning) Under the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the European Commission is seeking the views of civil society, social partners and stakeholders on EU water management practices.
The initiative, part of the European Green Deal, also addresses demands from the European Parliament calling for wider efforts to secure clean water.
Identify water pollutants
Despite the relatively good standards of water in the EU, the public consultation looks to update the list of pollutants that affect surface and ground water and the related regulatory standards, as and where required.
According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), only 40% of surface water bodies are in good ecological status, while 38% have good chemical status.
“Pollution caused by pesticides, man-made chemicals or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved”, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said
The review aims to redress some shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and to meet the legal obligation to regularly update the lists of pollutants, as well as to help accelerate implementation.
The EU’s recent pharmaceutical strategy also has a key role to play in addressing water contamination issues.
EEA’s indicator assessment
Examining the release of industrial pollutants, EEA’s assessed that between 2010 and 2019, industrial discharges into water in the EU had declined.
Releases of heavy metals dropped significantly. However, emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus, which cause eutrophication that results in the deterioration of water quality, declined to a lesser extent.
The EEA did note that data gaps make it difficult to accurately assess the degree to which industry contributes to overall water pollution in Europe.
A ‘’fitness check’’ that was conducted by the Commission in December 2019 found that EU water legislation seems to fit its purpose.
The EU executive identified the need for some overall improvements. These include more investments, better implementation of applicable rules, integrating water objectives with other policies, and general administrative simplification and digitalisation.
In December 2020, the Commission presented an overview of progress to date in implementing EU actions to tackle pharmaceuticals in the environment.
The main findings revealed that in general progress has been steady, with some strategy-recommended actions already well advanced or even completed.
Nonetheless, the EU environmental agency declared that “more efforts are needed” to help improve the ecological and chemical status of European water bodies.
“All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment,” Commissioner Sinkevičius declared.
The EU water management public consultation process will remain open until 1 November 2021.