2.3 Groundwater: Status and pressures

The WFD requires Member States to designate separate groundwater bodies and ensure that each one achieves 'good chemical and quantitative status'[1]. To meet the aim of good chemical status, hazardous substances should be prevented from entering groundwater, and the entry of all other pollutants (e.g. nitrates) should be limited.

Good quantitative status can be achieved by ensuring that the available groundwater resource is not reduced by the long-term annual average rate of abstraction. In addition, impacts on surface water linked with groundwater or groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystems should be avoided, as should saline intrusions.

In the EU, 75 % and 90 % of the area of groundwater bodies, respectively, is in good chemical and quantitative status[2]. This is a small improvement in status from the first RBMPs.

Nitrate is the main pollutant, affecting over 17 % of the area of groundwater bodies. In total, 170 pollutants resulted in failure to achieve good groundwater chemical status.Most of these were reported in only a few Member States, and only 29 pollutants were reported by five or more Member States.

In the EU, agriculture is the main cause of groundwater's failure to achieve good chemical status, as it leads to diffuse pollution from nitrates and pesticides. Other significant sources are discharges that are not connected to a sewerage system and contaminated sites or abandoned industrial sites.

Water abstraction for public water supply, agriculture and industry is the main significant cause of failure to achieve good quantitative status.

[1] See the specific criteria on chemical and quantitative status in Annex V of the WFD (EU, 2000).

[2] Compared to the results in EEA (2018) there are a minor increase of one percentage point in good quantitative and good chemical status.

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