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Title (Primary) Pesticides in European rivers, lakes and groundwaters – Data assessment
Author Mohaupt, V.; Völker, J.; Altenburger, R.; Birk, S.; Kirst, I.; Kühnel, D.; Küster, E.; Semeradova, S.; Šubelj, G.;
Journal ETC/ICM Technical Report
Year 2020
Department BIOTOX;
Volume 1/2020
Language englisch;
POF III (all) T32;
Abstract In Europe, a stable and reliable food supply has become normal over recent decades. This has been
achieved in many cases by the use of pesticides to control pests, weeds, and diseases, plus fertilisers to
supply additional nutrients. Pesticides play an important role in the food production process, maintaining
or enhancing crop yields and protecting quality in both conventional and organic arable farming. However,
they can also lead to harmful effects in the environment, including aquatic ecosystems and risks to human
health. There is now widespread concern about the addition of a substance to the environment, designed
to be toxic to part of the ecosystem.
European policies aimed at reducing the potential risk from pesticides are supported by the Plants Protection
Products Regulation (EU, 2009), the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (EU, 2009) and the Biocidal
Products Regulation (EU, 2012). The Water Framework Directive (WFD) (EU, 2000) and its daughter directives
help to protect water quality from pesticide pollution. There is, however, little evidence to show whether
this legislation has been effective, mainly because of limited data on the actual risk from pesticides in surface
waters and groundwater at the European level (EEA, 2018a). Addressing this gap is of high interest for policy,
practitioners, and the public because of the risks pesticides present to both the environment and human
health. Most recently, the Green Deal and its associated strategies and actions include the Biodiversity and
Farm to Fork Strategies, which aim to reduce by 50 % the use and risk of pesticides by 2030 (EC, 2019b; EC,
2020a, 2020b).
This technical report provides an overview of the available information on pesticides in surface waters and
groundwater in EEA countries. Its main output is a comprehensive summary of the data on pesticides in
surface waters and groundwater reported through WISE-SoE reporting to EEA1, over the period 2007 to 2017.
The EEA’s Waterbase – Water Quality database contains the most comparable data available from across
Europe. For the assessment, 180 pesticide substances were selected and characterised according to their
usage, their Mode of Action (MoA), their chemical grouping, and their environmental quality standards (EQS)
considering the reported analytical limits of quantification (LoQ). The methods for the quality assurance of
data, selection criteria and extraction, as well as the assignment of thresholds and calculation of exceedance
rates result in a unique database. This can be seen as a starting point for assessing pesticide risk in surface
waters and groundwater in Europe (see Annexes and files). EQS correspond to European standards where
available, otherwise to national EQS set under the WFD, using the lowest value as a precautionary approach.
The reported data for European surface water monitoring stations suggest that in the time period 2007 to
2017, 5–15 % showed exceedances by herbicides and 3–8 % by insecticides. For groundwater, the
percentages were about 7 % for herbicides and below 1 % for insecticides. Exceedances of fungicides
seemed to be less prevalent for both surface waters and groundwater.
Status assessments for water bodies in the 2nd River Basin Management Plans submitted in 2016 under the
WFD showed 0.4 % of all surface water bodies failing good chemical status because of the pesticides in the
priority substances list, and 6.5 % of the area of groundwater bodies failing good chemical status because of
pesticides. As set out in the EEA’s report ‘Chemicals in European Waters’, the WFD reporting for surface waters
does not adequately reflect the range of pesticides currently in use, nor their suspected impact (EEA 2018a).
This report also lists a number of other data sources for pesticides, especially scientific research and
emissions data, as well as national pesticide inventories and specific monitoring programmes. They are
diverse and often have limited spatial coverage, which makes them less useful for a European assessment
of the risk of pesticides in surface waters and groundwater.
The aim of this work is to provide a baseline for what we know about pesticides in water at the European
level. The objective of further work is to develop an indicator on the basis of the measured concentrations.
ID 23557
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Mohaupt, V., Völker, J., Altenburger, R., Birk, S., Kirst, I., Kühnel, D., Küster, E., Semeradova, S., Šubelj, G. (2020):
Pesticides in European rivers, lakes and groundwaters – Data assessment
ETC/ICM Technical Report 1/2020
European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH – UFZ, Magdeburg, 86 pp.