EC wants stricter measures to enforce Nitrates Directive

EC wants stricter measures to enforce nitrates directive
The latest research report, based on data from 2016-2019, shows that nitrates cause water pollution across Europe. (Photo: Water News Europe)

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The European Commission wants stricter measures to enforce the Nitrates Directive. A new report shows that nitrate pollution is still a major problem in the European Union. Brussels announced in a press release on Monday, October 11 that stricter measures are needed regionally and nationally.

Brussels has stipulated in the European Green Deal that nutrient losses must be halved by 2030. That goal can only be achieved if the Nitrates Directive is complied with. The European Commission will therefore come up with an action plan in 2022 to reduce nitrate pollution to zero. The aim is to tackle pollution at its source. That plan will also set out the extent to which the nutrient load must be reduced in order to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Livestock density

The latest research report, based on data from 2016-2019, shows that nitrates cause water pollution across Europe. High concentrations of nitrate in water are harmful to human health and nitrate pollution causes a lack of oxygen and explosive algal growth (eutrophication).

Problem countries

There is a group of twelve countries where nitrate pollution is at its highest. These member states suffer from poor water quality throughout their territories and a systemic problem of managing nutrient losses from agriculture. They are Belgium (Flemish Region), Denmark, Germany, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

More action needed

The European Nitrates Directive was adopted in 1991. According to the latest research report, water quality did improve somewhat until 2012, but there was actually little progress after that. This may be because the low-hanging fruit has now been picked and far-reaching measures are needed to achieve results.

Fines

Over the last years several countries have been fined for nitrate pollution. The European Court fined Greece for the late implementation of the Nitrates Directive in February 2020. In June 2018 Germany was fined for groundwater pollution.

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