Pesticides in Europe's waters – data assessment

a man is taking a water samplingClick to enlarge
Water sampling
Source: Frank /

Pesticides can cause damage to the environment. A project coordinated by the German Environment Agency for the European Environment Agency provides the first overview of pesticides in rivers. lakes and groundwater reported by EU Member States. The report confirms that additional measures are necessary to ensure compliance with environmental quality standards in waters.

Which data was analysed?

The project primarily used data on the usage, modes of action, environmental quality standards and analytical limits of quantification of 180 pesticides included in WISE database (Water Information System for Europe) of the European Environment Agency (EEA) from 2007 to 2017.

What is the major outcome?

In European rivers and lakes, 5 to 15 percent of the monitoring stations exceeded environmental quality standards for herbicides, and 3 to 8 percent exceeded standards for insecticides. The exceedances in groundwater were 7 percent for herbicides and less than 1 percent for insecticides.

The EU Water Framework Directive also requires the Member States to report data on pesticides to the EU Commission. These data show similarly high levels of exceedance of environmental quality standards for groundwater as in the report for the European Environment Agency. For surface waters, however, only 0.4 percent of the water bodies were reported to be polluted with pesticides. This is probably due to the fact that only a few priority substances are evaluated under the Water Framework Directive, while the present study collected data for 180 pesticides.

What are the next steps?

Data collection and evaluation for the European Environment Agency are the basis on which to develop an indicator to illustrate pesticide pollution in surface waters and groundwater at European level and to enable a review of the achievement of the objectives of the EU Directives and the European Green Deal. One thing is already clear: To achieve this, pollutant discharges must be further reduced.