Future Water Quality in Central and Eastern Europe22.05.1996 - (idw) Internationales Institut für Angewandte Systemanalyse Laxenburg
Future Water Quality in Central and Eastern Europe: What is to be Done?
Budapest (Hungary)/Laxenburg (Austria) - 21 May 1996 - The state of water quality was largely unknown in Central and East European (CEE) countries before the recent political changes. Due to non- sustainable development practices in the past, former socialist countries now must deal simultaneously with many pollution problems: co-existence of traditional and toxic pollutants, pollution from cities, industries and farms (point and non-point sources alike), local and transboundary issues in international river basins, and so forth. Money is scarce in CEE countries and their transitions present unprecedented difficulties. The basic question for the region is, how much environmental quality can these countries really afford?
To address these issues, the Water Resources Project at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria, performed a 3 year study. The goal was to develop innovative strategies and methods for water quality management on a river basin scale that would be practical and affordable in the short term, yet flexible, allowing gradual tightening of water quality standards as economies improve. Based on comprehensive data collection in five countries, and to demonstrate the efficacy of different water quality management strategies and IIASA"s computer-based models, case studies were conducted with local partners on four representative river basins in the region: the Sió River System in Hungary; the Nitra River basin in the Slovak Republic; the Morava River in the Czech Republic; and, the Narew River in Poland.
Water quality in the CEE region is clearly worse than in the West. The causes use of outdated production technologies in industry and agriculture, little prevention and a low level of water treatment. In municipalities, an unbalanced water infrastructure is typical: the level of water supply is acceptable but access to sewerage is not. Only a small portion of collected wastewater is treated adequately and sludge disposal lags further behind. Problems in rural areas are even more serious. Thus, water and material cycles are open, resulting in dissolved oxygen depletion, high ammonia levels, nitrate and heavy metal contamination, eutrophication of lakes, rivers and seas, and more. These water quality conditions lead to an aquatic habitat unfit for fish and other species, unaesthetic rivers and lakes, and water unsuited for drinking.
Municipal emissions have been unaffected by the transition. Investment needs are tremendous, about 500 USD/capita, which is about 20% of per capita GDP. In comparison, industrial and agricultural emissions fell significantly during the recent past. There is now an opportunity to link the restructuring of these sectors with environmental protection by introducing clean technologies. The application of realistic water tariffs has already resulted in significantly reducing water consumption. Many other opportunities exist for using soft tools to promote reuse, recycling, clean technologies and to enhance treatment.
Western concepts of water quality management developed in societies able to pay a high price for top quality water. Some countries spent about 1% of annual GDP for municipal wastewater management for several decades. Unfortunately, this does not apply for CEE countries. Besides severe financial constraints (GDP/capita is 10-20% of the West European average), institutions, laws and regulations con- tinue to change. Water quality managers and policy makers face a task far more complex than their counterparts in the West. Transition to Western water quality norms will take several decades - similar to the long process which occured, for example, in the USA or Germany. Western management experiences are extremely useful, but without adjusting them to the local conditions, they can not be applied.
In proposing practical alternatives for affordable water quality management, the Water Resources Project has chosen to focus on identifying an ambient water quality as the key environmental target. The IIASA scholars used specially developed decision support systems to determine cost-effective management strategies to improve water quality. Dr. Mark Smith of the Project summarises that "cost-effectiveness - as an important principle in the short term - may require significant pollution control efforts from one source and much less from another, but this strategy can achieve control at lower costs."
Professor László Somlyódy, Leader of the IIASA Project, emphasizes that, "the central issue is how CEE countries can achieve the largest improvement now using the scarce financial resources available and how they can design the process such that in the long run sustainable, EU type of requirements are met." The IIASA approach based on the analysis of specific case studies provides many conclusions and recommendations that should be implemented in a step-wise manner over time. Some key elements are: identifing pollution "hot-spots" and developing least-cost regional policies on the basis of ambient criteria; defining phased standards in harmony with multistage upgrading and development of wastewater treatment plants; tightening requirements on industrial effluents, and promoting best management practices in agriculture to minimize nutrient and pesticide runoff; considering the regions aspirations to join the European Union, long term water quality targets should be guided by EU norms; eliminating the gap between sewerage and wastewater treatment; reducing water use through full cost pricing of water; establishing a regulatory framework and incentives for investment and infrastructure to promote the use of clean technologies and pollution control within the process of economic restructuring; and using innovative methods in water quality planning, wastewater management and financing, as well as the knowledge of local professionals.
For further information concerning the research of IIASA's Water Resources Project, contact: Professor László Somlyódy, Project Leader (tel. +43-2236 807 202, fax +43-2236 71313, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org at IIASA or tel. +36 1 463 3713 or email@example.com at the Budapest University of Technology), or Dr. Mark Smith, IIASA Research Scholar (tel. +43-2236 807 477, fax +43-2236 71313, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria) is a non-governmental research institution sponsored by a consortium of National Member Organizations in 17 nations. The Institute's research focuses on sustainability and the human dimensions of global change. The studies are international and interdisciplinary, providing timely and relevant information and options for the scientific community, policy makers and the public.For information please contact: Elisabeth Krippl or Christoph M. Schneider Office of Public Information, IIASA, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria; phone: (+43 2236) 807 ext. 364 or 299; fax:(+43 2236) 73 149; e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Water Quality in Central and Eastern Europe: The present state
Budapest (Hungary)/Laxenburg (Austria) - 21 May 1996 - In its 3 year study to develop unique policy options considering cost-effective strategies for water quality management in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Water Resources Project at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria, has gathered information on the following four representative river basins: Sió River System in Hungary, Nitra River in the Slovak Republic, Morava River in the Czech Republic, and Narew River in Poland.
The Sió River System in southwest Hungary extends over a watershed of 8953 km2 and is home to the majority of the nation's chemical industries. As a consequence of the intensive industrial activity, there are more than 35 major industrial point sources within the river basin. In addition, 25 municipal type point sources also exceed the effluent standards for at least one pollutant. The growing amounts of municipal wastewater treatment plant effluents have further significantly reduced water quality in the watershed. More than 300 towns are situated in the watershed, most of them are served by public water supply systems distributing water to 97% of the watershed population. In relation though, sewer systems serve only 50-55% of the population, primarily in the larger settlements. Until recently, parts of the Sió system, which consists of river/channel branches, had no water quality problem. However, decreasing water availability and increasing pollution since 1993 have led to fish-kills and dramatic overall water quality decline. The government is striving to clean-up the river system, but is concerned about the costs to the chemical industry and the economically stressed municipalities.
The Nitra River in west-central Slovakia extends over a watershed of 5140 km2. The river's water quality is poor, one of the poorest in Slovakia, if not the entire CEE region. In a classification system where Class V represents the worst quality, the Nitra is classfied as Class VI-V. The river system is mainly used for waste disposal. Fishing and water-based recreation are out of the question, but the public may not be aware of the risk. Municipalities and industry combine for almost all the water contamination in the Nitra River; agricultural activities have practically no affect on water quality despite being the major type of land-use. Municipalities, the main source of pollution, contribute 70% of traditional pollutants (i.e., organic material, phosphorous and nitrogen). Wastewater treatment plants exist in no more than 11 municipalities, and then only 50% of the generated wastewater is treated. Treatment plants are overloaded -- average annual wastewater flow is double the designed capacity. Industries contribute 30-50% of the pollution to municipal wastewaters. In addition, industrial sources discharging directly into the Nitra are responsible for 30% of the river's total pollution load. Past enforcement of water quality standards and charges were lax. Emission control measurements were scarcely ever made and the amount of effluent charges and fines collected was (and is) low.
The Morava River, draining nearly one third of the eastern part of the Czech Republic, extends over a watershed of 10500 km2. The impacts of municipal, agricultural and industrial pollution combine to make the Morava the most polluted river in the country. The main water quality concerns are nitrogen, phosphorous, organic micropollutants and, in some tributaries, dissolved oxygen. More than 50% of the major streams in the Morava river basin are classified as Class V ("very heavily polluted"). Agriculture, extending over 60% of the basin, contributes 40-60% of the total pollutants to the river from non-point sources. In comparison, municipal pollution consists chiefly of point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). About 85% of the population in the region is served by public water supply and 75% are linked to the sewer systems. Direct discharge of wastewater collected from septic tanks from the remaining 25% of the population is still typical in many small and medium sized towns. In general, WWTPs function poorly, resulting in organic pollution and high nutrient loads in the river system.
The Narew River in north-eastern Poland extends over a watershed of 75000 km2. North of Warsaw, the Narew flows into the Vistula which discharges into the Baltic Sea. Municipalities and various industries are the major polluters. Often, municipal wastewater treatment is not in compliance with water quality standards set for the river system, and industries frequently dump their effluents into the municipal sewer system or directly into the water. The major pollutants in the Narew are nitrogen, phosphorous and reduced biochemical oxygen demand. The effects not only create local problems like oxygen depletions in the water, but also influence the water quality downstream in Lake Zegzynskie (supplies drinking water for Warsaw), the Vistula, and the Baltic Sea. After years of ineffective wastewater regulations, the Polish government finally started passing new legislation in 1991 on water quality management that specify water quality standards, effluent standards, permit requirements as well as charges and fines for wastewater discharge. A new water law is still being finalized.
For further information concerning the research of IIASA's Water Resources Project, contact: Professor László Somlyódy, Project Leader (tel. +43-2236 807 202, fax +43-2236 71313, or e-mail email@example.com at IIASA or tel. +36 1 463 3713 or firstname.lastname@example.org at the University of Technology in Budapest), or Dr. Mark Smith, IIASA Research Scholar (tel. +43-2236 807 477, fax +43-2236 71313, or e-mail email@example.com).
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria) is a non-governmental research institution sponsored by a consortium of National Member Organizations in 17 nations. The Institute's research focuses on sustainability and the human dimensions of global change. The studies are international and interdisciplinary, providing timely and relevant information and options for the scientific community, policy makers and the public.
For information please contact: Elisabeth Krippl or Christoph Schneider Office of Public Information, IIASA, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria; phone: (+43 2236) 807 ext. 364 or 299; fax: (+43 2236) 73 149; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Christoph M. SCHNEIDER, PhD