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Study of the Impacts of Pressures on Groundwater in Europe

Groundwater spring in the Beauce region, France


© Josselin Rouillard


Study of the Impacts of Pressures on Groundwater in Europe


As part of this project for the European Environment Agency, Ecologic Institute is providing an overview of the chemical and quantitative status of groundwater across Europe, and its significance for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Groundwater is a crucial natural resource, utilized for drinking water, as well as for industrial and agricultural uses. Groundwater is a key element of the larger water cycle, and emerges as spring and feed into rivers, lakes and coastal areas. It provides an effective buffer against the seasonal variability of the climate, and supports a host of unique terrestrial and aquatic species and habitats, that are either associated or directly dependent on its discharge or specific water quality.

In Europe, the EU Water Framework Directive -WFD- (2000/60/EC) establishes a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater. It has the objective to achieve good status of water by 2015. Groundwater is one category of water bodies alongside rivers, lakes, coastal and transitional waters. The WFD aims to achieve good chemical and quantitative status in groundwater bodies, and protect dependent terrestrial and associated aquatic ecosystems. It is supported by the Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC) which establishes a regime for setting groundwater quality standards, and requires measures to prevent or limit inputs of pollutants into groundwater.

The purpose of the proposed contract is to analyse and integrate data and information held at European level (e.g. reporting, literature, case studies) on Europe's groundwater to improve the current understanding on groundwater status, groundwater-surface water interdependencies, and interactions between groundwater and associated aquatic or dependent terrestrial ecosystems.

The work focuses on the different types of pressures, which are causing failure of good status in groundwater bodies, and the subsequent impacts on the connected ecosystems to the groundwater bodies. The analysis provides comprehensive narratives that address human pressures on groundwater such as nutrient emissions and abstraction from agriculture and contamination from polluted industrial sites, impacts on society (e.g. drinking water supply) and the environment. It shows the spatial differences and temporal variations of these groundwater management challenges across Europe. The narratives will also address the relevant policy context, and describe how EU environmental policy, for instance through the WFD and Groundwater Directive, the Nature Directives and new European Green deal can increase the protection of this precious natural resource.

Groundwater is a precious resource for the European economy and for the well-functioning of its terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.


Project ID
groundwater, chemical status, quantitative status, groundwater dependent ecosystems