The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a new report which identifies cases of excessive levels of pesticides in EU freshwaters. The new data was collated from 29 participating EEA country members between 2013 and 2019 and reveals pesticide levels in surface waters, groundwater, lakes and rivers.
The environmental organisation found that in 2019, 25 percent of surface waters monitored showed levels of pesticides above EU standards. The findings, taken from data across six years, monitored 9,327 surface water sites and 13,544 sites for groundwater.
The report states that between: “13% to 30% of all surface water monitoring sites, one or more pesticides were detected above effect threshold each year between 2013 and 2019. Exceedances of one or more pesticides were detected at between 3% and 7% of groundwater monitoring sites.”
The study, which the EEA commissioned to track Europe’s progress to reduce pesticides, also identified that approved insecticides used to protect plants were commonly found in surface waters.
A banned herbicide “atrazine” was frequently detected in ground waters. “Atrazine was not approved for use in plant protection products during the monitoring period. Despite restrictions on atrazine since 2007, it continues to be found in groundwater because it is very persistent.”
The report added: “Exceedance rates of more than 30% were reported in 14 out of 29 countries for surface waters and in one out of 22 countries for groundwater. High exceedance rates were mainly reported at monitoring sites in small and medium-sized rivers.”
The EEA acknowledged that despite discovering adverse findings, it is too early to distinguish trends from the available data as factors such as weather and what crops are grown can influence findings.
The document stated: “No trends can be derived at this time…Changes to the approval status of pesticides influence their use and presence in water, which can also lead to difficulties in interpreting trends over time. For these reasons, changes between years may not be significant. It is anticipated that a trend will become apparent in the next few years.”
Despite the EU adopting pesticide protocols and regulation, these pollutants can still find their way into the environment and eco systems. As pesticides distress the environment and organisms that inhabit them by design, such reports highlight locations that pose risk to life.
An updated report is expected to follow next year which works in line with the European Commission’s goal to reduce pesticides by 50% by 2030 as part of the European Green Deal.
Speaking in 2018, EEA Executive Director, Hans Bruyninckx said: “We must increase efforts to ensure our waters are as clean and resilient as they should be — our own well-being and the health of our vital water and marine ecosystems depend on it. This is critical to the long-term sustainability of our waters and in meeting our long-term goals of living well within the limits of our planet.”