Nav: Home

How to improve water quality in Europe

December 03, 2019

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) adopted in 2000 aims to protect Europe's water resources. By 2027, EU Member States are required to bring all water bodies into a "good ecological" and "good chemical state". There's still a long way to go. This is due, for example, to the fact that a few existing substances, for which there are currently no suitable possibilities for reducing pollution, lead to environmental quality standards being exceeded across the board in Germany and Europe - and thus to poor water quality. "What's more, the complex mixtures of pesticides, medicines and industrial chemicals that are released daily and pose a considerable risk for humans and the environment are not taken into account when establishing the chemical status of our water bodies," says UFZ Environmental Chemist Dr Werner Brack, who coordinated the SOLUTIONS project that drew to a close last year. The current WFD indicator system does not differentiate between rivers with differing pollution nor does it demonstrate any actual improvements in water quality as a result of any measures implemented. This is why it urgently needs to be developed further. Otherwise, according to Brack, the objectives of the WFD cannot be achieved.

For the past five years, European scientists have carried out research as part of the SOLUTIONS project, which received EUR twelve million from the EU. "It has been shown that the current practice of limiting the assessment of chemical pollution to a few substances defined as priorities throughout Europe and certain river-basin-specific pollutants is not sufficient for recording pollution as a whole," summarises Werner Brack. At present, the WFD only lists 45 priority pollutants that are not allowed to occur or occur only to a limited extent in water bodies categorized as water bodies of good quality. However, more than 100,000 chemical substances end up in the environment and water bodies. The indicators currently used to assess water quality cannot be used to identify pollution hotspots or initiate appropriate management measures. The SOLUTIONS project has therefore developed new concepts and tools for monitoring and reducing exposure to complex mixtures.

In a total of 15 policy briefs, SOLUTIONS researchers have set out how policy makers can implement these concepts and tools. For example, scientists recommend that substances in toxic mixtures should also be taken into account when prioritising chemicals under the WFD. Until now, prioritising chemicals and defining EU-wide priority and river-basin-specific substances have only been based on individual chemicals. In another policy brief, they describe how users can use the RiBaTox toolbox developed as part of the SOLUTIONS project to solve problems related to the monitoring, modelling, impact assessment and management of chemical mixtures in surface waters. Monitoring methods should be used to target the complex mixtures, i.e. effect-based methods that involve representative aquatic organisms such as algae, small crustaceans, fish embryos and suitable cell systems demonstrating how toxic each chemical cocktail is. This would allow toxic loads to be determined, even if the underlying chemicals are unknown or below the detection limit for analysis. These methods should be complemented by chemical screening techniques using high-resolution mass spectrometry to see which substances the mixtures contain, to detect emerging chemicals and to monitor pollution trends in the aquatic environment. This way, valuable information can also be collected on the occurrence of substances that are now detectable but cannot yet be identified. To be able to use this extensive data on hundreds and thousands of substances in water to assess the risk of chemical cocktails, the authors also suggest establishing a European data infrastructure. This will help gather data and make it accessible to the world of science and the authorities so it can be evaluated and shared.

"The policy briefs are intended to make it easier for decision-makers to access the scientific information needed to protect Europe's water resources," says Werner Brack. This is an important basis for people's health across Europe and for healthy ecosystems that provide the population with key services.
-end-
All policy briefs: https://www.springeropen.com/collections/solutions

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Related Water Quality Articles:

Lessening water quality problems caused by hurricane-related flooding
June 1 is the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic, and with 2020 predicted to be particularly active, residents in coastal regions are keeping watchful eyes on the weather.
Control of anthropogenic atmospheric emissions can improve water quality in seas
A new HKU research highlighted the importance of reducing fossil fuel combustion not only to curb the trend of global warming, but also to improve the quality of China's coastal waters.
Pharma's potential impact on water quality
When people take medications, these drugs and their metabolites can be excreted and make their way to wastewater treatment plants.
Study: Your home's water quality could vary by the room -- and the season
A study has found that the water quality of a home can differ in each room and change between seasons, challenging the assumption that the water in a public water system is the same as the water that passes through a building's plumbing at any time of the year.
Researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity
A wife-husband team will present both high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle on Sunday, Feb.
How anti-sprawl policies may be harming water quality
Urban growth boundaries are created by governments in an effort to concentrate urban development -- buildings, roads and the utilities that support them -- within a defined area.
China's inland surface water quality significantly improves
A new study shows that China's inland surface water quality improved significantly from 2003-2017, coinciding with major efforts beginning in 2001 to reduce water pollution in the country.
Studying water quality with satellites and public data
The researchers built a novel dataset of more than 600,000 matchups between water quality field measurements and Landsat imagery, creating a 'symphony of data.'
How to improve water quality in Europe
Toxic substances from agriculture, industry and households endanger water quality in Europe -- and by extension, ecosystems and human health.
Revolutionizing water quality monitoring for our rivers and reef
New, lower-cost help may soon be on the way to help manage one of the biggest threats facing the Great Barrier Reef.
More Water Quality News and Water Quality Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.