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Europe’s groundwater — a key resource under pressure

Europe’s groundwater — a key resource under pressure

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.

The EEA briefing Europe’s groundwater — a key resource under pressure‘ provides an overview of the state of groundwater in the European Union (EU). The briefing is published on the World Water Day 2022, with the theme ‘Groundwater: making the invisible visible’.

In the EU, groundwater supplies 65% of drinking water and 25% of water for agricultural irrigation. However, according to the latest EEA data, about a quarter of the total groundwater body area in the EU is in poor chemical status and 9% in poor quantitative status. Considering both poor chemical and quantitative status, about 29% of the EU’s groundwater body area lacks capacity to meet the needs of ecosystems and people, the EEA briefing states.

The main reason for poor chemical status in EU groundwater is diffuse pollution from agriculture, most commonly nitrates and pesticides. Reasons for poor quantitative status mainly arise from excessive abstraction for irrigation, especially in southern Europe. Over-abstraction of coastal freshwater aquifers may also result in saline intrusion from seawater, which can make groundwater unusable for decades or increase the cost of treatment, the EEA briefing warns. Climate change is expected worsen these problems as demand for irrigation increases in Europe.

The European Green Deal has reiterated the need to manage water resources sustainably and tackle chemical pollution and water stress, to ensure sufficient, good-quality water for the environment and people. Reducing the pressures from agriculture and public water supply are key, according to the EEA briefing, but new approaches are also needed, including the use of information technology, financing, and the enforcement of circularity in the use of groundwater.

Key messages:

  • Groundwater supplies 65% of drinking water and 25% of water for agricultural irrigation in the 27 EU Member States (EU-27).
  • According to Member States’ second river basin management plans (2016), 24% of the total groundwater body area was reported to be of poor chemical status and 9% to be of poor quantitative status in the EU-27.
  • A combined assessment of chemical status and quantitative status shows that 29% of the total groundwater body area lacks sufficient capacity to meet the needs of ecosystems and people, owing to deterioration of groundwater quality or quantity.
  • Groundwater is under widespread pressure from pollution and abstraction. Pressures are likely to increase as result of population growth and increasing water demand in a changing climate.
  • While the EU environmental policy framework helps to ensure sustainable management of groundwater resources and preserve the natural ecosystems dependent on them, the implementation of policy provisions needs to be further accelerated.

Source – European Environment Agency  |  Image: United Nations

Verde Environmental Consultants has built a team of water resource assessment specialists focused on delivering quality hydrogeological services to our clients which are led by Donal Hogan, Senior Hydrogeologist who has over 22 years’ experience in hydrogeology related projects. In particular, he has extensive experience in groundwater development assessments to develop a potable and sustainable groundwater resource.

We provide all aspects of hydrogeological services such as groundwater abstraction feasibility assessments, authorisation of discharges to groundwater technical assessments and water quality/level monitoring.

The development of sustainable groundwater resources is a key element in helping our clients to reduce costs associated with the use of water.

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