UK surface water pollution among the worst in Europe

The UK has some of the most polluted surface waters in the EU, according to the latest report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive.

Out of the 27 EU member states, the UK, Belgium and Malta’s surface waters have the highest share of monitoring stations exceeding 40 mg nitrate per litre of water.

While water pollution caused by nitrates has decreased overall in Europe over the past two decades, agricultural pressures are still putting water resources under strain.

According to the European Commission, agricultural pressures on water quality are still increasing in some areas, with intensive agricultural practices dependent on fertilisers that cause local water quality to deteriorate.

The report says that several member states and regions still have a high percentage of nitrate-polluted and eutrophic waters.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “I am very pleased to see that longstanding efforts to reduce pollution from nitrates in water are paying off. But we still have a huge task ahead to bring Europe’s waters to good status by 2015.

“Nitrates put severe pressure on biodiversity, and on the waters and land underpinning our agriculture and economic activities. We need to step up efforts to achieve further significant reductions in nutrient releases.

“This requires managing the nutrient cycle in a more sustainable and resource-efficient way. In particular, we need to improve efficiency in the use of fertilisers. The longer we wait, the more it will cost, to the economy and the environment.”

Germany and Malta fared the worst for groundwater pollution, while 100 per cent of the Netherland’s fresh waters were affected by eutrophication.

The UK was also one of the countries to provide a lack of data on the eutrophication of rivers and lakes.