Groundwater

The analysis and review of groundwater bodies (GWBs) in the DRB, as required under Article 5. and Annex II of the WFD, was performed in 2004 and identified 11 transboundary GWBs or groups of GWBs of basin-wide importance.

According to the DBA the main reasons for the pollution of groundwater were identified as:

  1. Insufficient wastewater collection and treatment on the municipal level;
  2. Insufficient wastewater treatment at industrial premises;
  3. Water pollution caused by intensive agriculture and livestock breeding;
  4. Inappropriate waste disposal sites.

These pressures, in combination with the high vulnerability of some of the aquifers, necessitate the development of appropriate GWB protection strategies based on conceptual models.

The overall assessment of pressures on the quality of the 11 transboundary GWBs of basin-wide importance showed that pollution by nitrates from diffuse sources is the key factor affecting the chemical status of these groundwaters. The major sources of this diffuse pollution are agricultural activities, non-sewered population and urban land use.

Article 5 report stated that groundwater used for the supply of drinking water plays a major role in Danube countries, estimating that about 60% of the population in the DRB depends on groundwater sources. In general, groundwater quantity in the DRB is affected by groundwater abstraction for drinking water supply or industrial and agricultural purposes. The expected development of future water demand has to be taken into account when identifying water exploitation and protection strategies.

The assessment of pressures on the quantity of the 11 transboundary GWBs of basin-wide importance showed that over-abstraction prevents the achievement of good quantitative status for several of the GWBs.

Summary of measures of basin-wide importance – groundwater quality

Taking into account that contamination by nitrates is a key factor against achieving good chemical status of a significant portion of the GWBs of basin-wide importance, and in line with the management objectives, it is essential to eliminate or reduce the amount of nitrates entering groundwater bodies in the DRBD. Prevention of deterioration of groundwater quality and any significant and sustained upward trend in concentrations of nitrates in groundwater has to be achieved primarily through the implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive and also the EU UWWTD.

To avoid the presence of hazardous substances in groundwater aquifers, additional measures need to be taken as required under the following Directives:

  1. Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC) as amended by Directive (98/83/EC);
  2. Plant Protection Products Directive (91/414/EEC);
  3. Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC);
  4. Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Directive (96/61/EC).

To prevent pollution of GWBs by hazardous substances from point source discharges liable to cause pollution, the following measures are needed: an effective regulatory framework ensuring prohibition of direct discharge of pollutants into groundwater; the setting of all necessary measures required to prevent significant losses of pollutants from technical installations; the prevention and/or reduction of the impact of accidental pollution incidents.

DRBM Plan stressed that emissions of nitrates and relevant hazardous substances need to be sufficiently controlled not to cause any deterioration of groundwater quality in the DRBD. Where groundwater is already polluted, restoration to good quality by a thorough implementation of the respective EU legislation is essential.

Summary of measures of basin-wide importance – groundwater quantity

The ICPDR vision for groundwater quantity stipulates that water use in the DRBD has to be appropriately balanced taking into account the conceptual models for particular GWBs and should not exceed the available groundwater resource in the DRBD. In line with this vision, the over-abstraction of GWBs within the DRBD should be avoided by effective groundwater and surface water management. Therefore, appropriate controls regarding abstraction of fresh surface water and groundwater and impoundment of fresh surface waters (including a register or registers of water abstractions) must be put in place as well as the requirements for prior authorisation of such abstraction and impoundment. In line with the WFD, it must be ensured that the available groundwater resource is not exceeded by the long-term annual average rate of abstraction.

The concept of registers of groundwater abstractions is well developed throughout the DRBD. The Ministry of Environment and Water in Bulgaria maintains a national register of abstraction permits. A central register of groundwater abstractions based on the National Water Law is updated annually in Slovakia. In Hungary, a Groundwater Abstractions register is published yearly and it contains data on the withdrawals of the operating, monitoring and reserve wells. In Bavaria, water suppliers are obliged to report annual data to local authorities on overall water abstraction and specific abstractions from spring sources. Bavaria and Austria cooperate on the annual preparation of a register of abstractions from the thermal water of the Lower Bavarian - Upper Austrian molasses basin (GWB1). In Romania, the national administration “Romanian Waters” maintains the national register of abstraction permits according to the National Water Law.

To prevent deterioration of groundwater quantity as well as the deterioration of dependent terrestrial ecosystems, solutions for the rehabilitation have to be explored. These should include restoration of wetland areas which are in direct contact with aquifers.

The ICPDR elaborated a Groundwater Guidance document that summarizes the groundwater management approaches agreed within the ICPDR. It provides brief technical information on the characterization and grouping of GW bodies and necessary explanation on monitoring parameters, aggregation procedures, data reporting including reporting frequencies and the presentation of status in order to contribute to a harmonization of approaches within the Danube River Basin.

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