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Water quality


Specific Objectives

Specific Objectives in 2002:
- To establish criteria for harmonising classification schemes of ecological status of surface waters, and reporting systems for nutrient loading to fresh and marine waters;
- To develop an integrated approach to water management at watershed basin scale
(in collaboration with the IES-Soil and Waste Unit) with particular emphasis on developing concepts and scientific tools for monitoring and forecasting eutrophication-related coastal sea degradation based on the linked watershed-coastal sea paradigm;
- To develop and apply methodologies for the assessment of chemical micro-pollutants (e.g., priority substances, pharmaceuticals, food additives, perfume ingredients; surfactants and whiteners; endocrine disruptors) in aquatic systems;
- To develop selective, sensitive molecular methodologies for microbiological and toxicological analysis of drinking water, surface waters and wastewater (in collaboration with JRC 007);
- To develop screening methodologies (including biomarker-oriented cellular approach) to evaluate the impact of chemical mixtures and situations of mixed exposure (e.g. water pollutants, pesticides and hormone residues, materials)
- The experimental research activities on EDCs, integrated by in vivo/in vitro assays on reproductive and/or embryo-toxic endpoints; the development of rapid screening assays of specific biomarkers and that of hormonal equivalency factors (HEF) to assess their effect in continuous low-level exposure;
- To develop tools and criteria for the evaluation of chemical (organic and inorganic) release to drinking water from construction materials;
- To develop methodologies to harmonize anaerobic biological waste treatment technology at the European scale;
- Establishment of a JRC Competence Centre for Organic Chemicals;
- To enhance training of regular and non regular JRC staff.
Planned Deliverables

Deliverables 2002:

Specific deliverables to DGs:

- Preparation of guidelines and development towards a European Centre for inter-calibration of surface water ecological quality assessment;
- Criteria for the harmonization schemes for the ecological status of surface waters;
- Technical and scientific support to EU policy through support to DGs on implementation of the various Directives;
- Definition of reference conditions for inland waters;
- European testing facility for construction products in contact with drinking water and development of a European-scale material approval protocol;
- The European Coastal Observation Network;
- A catalogue of research watersheds in Europe;
- Harmonization of methodologies to determine the activity and degradability of anaerobic biological treatment systems at the European scale;
- EU report on toxicogenomic/molecular biology approach in evaluating human health hazard following exposure to complex environmental mixtures and multiexposure situations.

As a result of the research:

- Harmonized protocols to estimate response times to achieve water quality objectives;
- Harmonized sampling and analytical methods for surface water;
- Analytical methods for priority substances in water;
- Harmonized methods for anaerobic biodegradability, toxicity and testing in wastewater emphasizing microcalorimetry;
- Evaluation of construction materials in contact with drinking water with respect to chemical release, and development of criteria for use;
- A better understanding of the aquatic ecosystem effect of chemicals and chemical mixtures, including endocrine disrupters;
- Evaluation of data sets in Member States around Baltic Sea for use in defining reference conditions and classification of coastal waters;
- Dialogue with DGs: The dialogue with the main user DG ENV has been reinforced in order to better fit the activities to their needs. As a result the JRC has been involved in the Technical Committees of the Urban Wastewater and Nitrate Directive, of the Drinking Water Directive, the Water Framework Directive and of the Regulators Group for CPDW. Discussions have also been held with the EEA, establishing a formal contact with the ETCs Inland Waters and Marine/Coastal Waters;
- Scientific publications in peer reviewed journals; EU reports.

Summary of 2001 Deliverables: 31/12/2001

- Lead in workgroup "Assessment and classification of surface water - inter-calibration" for the implementation of WFD.
- Lead in workgroup on the analysis and monitoring of priority substances through the EAF in support of EU policy (WFD);
- Establishment of an European Testing laboratory for CPDW (Construction Products in contact with Drinking Water) as support to an European Approval Scheme on CPDW
- Development of biochemical assays for rapid screening of specific biomarkers in aquatic life;
- Establishment and functioning of the ESCON network (integrated river basin - coastal zone management effort);
- Scientific papers describing aerobic and anaerobic measures of organism activity and toxicity in activated sludge by microcalorimetry and respirometry;
- Criteria for the identification of freshwaters subject to eutrophication: their use for the implementation of the "Nitrates" and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directives. EUR Report 19810 EN, March 2001. ISBN 92-894-0947-9.

Output Indicators and Impact

- Guidance documents on the implementation of Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and Nitrates Directive. This work was done for DG ENV, presented to Member States in February 2001, and has been used by the MS to classify surface waters.
- Leadership in several work groups and contributions to several others supporting the implementation the Water Framework Directive. Impact has been to enhance the effectiveness of the implementation plan.
Summary of the project

The Water Quality Project, integrating part of the activities of the former JRC-7 Aquatox (EIHH) project, focuses on the following major areas: Drinking water quality and impacts; Wastewater quality and impacts; Ecological water at the watershed scale and impacts to inland and coastal waters; integrated river basin-coastal zone management; monitoring and analysis of chemical substances; and evaluation of molecular responses of fish to endocrine disrupting chemicals.


Quantitative availability of water is closely linked to its quality. The implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the application of other Directives (Drinking Water; Urban Wastewater; Nitrate; Bathing Water; Marine Policy) should allow Member States to converge their approaches to sustainable water management. At the same time, pressure on water quality will increase the need to develop tools for the evaluation and prediction of water quality, to investigate the relationship between structure and functioning of ecosystems, to enhance and harmonise data quality in Europe, and to develop a clear and detailed picture of emerging and evolving biological and chemical problems with respect to clean water supplies for human use and proper ecosystem functioning.

The project foresees the evaluation of existing methodologies and the development of new methodologies for the assessment of the chemical and biological quality of drinking water, wastewater/sludge, and surface waters at the European level. In support of EU regulatory activities, the Water Quality Project provides mechanisms and instruments for the classification and optimisation of water resources, and their management; identify emerging problems in drinking water; investigate new options for water reuse of wastewater and participate in the development of European standards; improve the quality of analytical data through the harmonisation of methods in connection with CEN, and conduct inter-laboratory comparisons especially in Accession Countries; and determine the influence of watershed management and land use on nutrient and contaminant release to fresh waters leading to coastal and marine pollution. The toxicological part of the project aims at the development of methodologies for the evaluation of environmental chemical mixtures. A biomarker-oriented approach based on the identification of critical end-points representing cumulative molecular and cellular effects is being developed and will be incorporated into a testing paradigm.

Funding Scheme

JRC - Joint Research Centre research


Institute for Environment and Sustainability