This year, The European Environment Agency has written a report, European water: assessment of status and pressures 2018, on the state of Europe’s water. This report compiles the information the EU Member States have published in their second river basin management plans for achieving the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
This assessment reports that approximately 40% of European surface waters (rivers, lakes, and transitional and coastal waters) are in ‘good’ ecological status but 17% has been classified as ‘heavily modified.’ They identify that the most significant pressure on surface water is hydromorphological pressures—accounting for 40% of the pressure. These hydromorphological pressures include: straightening and channelisation, disconnection of flood plains, land reclamation, dams, weirs, and bank reinforcements.
The report lists countries may restore their rivers to reach ‘good’ ecological status:
* employing measures related to river continuity, such as removing obstacles and installing fish passes;
* employing measures focused on restoring aquatic habitats, such as improving physical habitats;
* managing sediment in a way that ensures that it is transported along the length of rivers;
* reconnecting backwaters and wetlands to restore lateral connectivity between the main river channel, the riparian area and the wider floodplain;
* implementing natural water retention measures that restore natural water storage, for example inundating flood plains and constructing retention basins;
* restoring the natural water flow regime through, for example, setting minimum flow and ecological flow requirements;
* developing master or conservation plans for restoring the population of threatened fish species.
Compared to the first river basin management plans from the EU Member States, many of the previous pressures listed have been addressed but looking forward to the next RBMP (2019-2021), it is expected that more measures will be taken to ensure more river are in good ecological status.
We hope that this is the case and in the near future more barriers will be removed to relieve some of the pressures we are putting on the veins of our earth.