The UK is among 16 European countries where more than 10% of groundwater is in poor chemical status, reveals a report.
Bottom of the league table are Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Belgium (Flanders) and Malta, where 50% of groundwater bodies contain too many chemicals. The UK is fifth worst, with more than 40% of its groundwater bodies deemed to be polluted.
Excessive nitrate concentration is responsible for 54% of the groundwater bodies in Europe with poor chemical status. Pesticides are blamed for affecting 20% of groundwater bodies, while other "common" groundwater pollutants account for 34%.
Published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Waters - Assessment of Status and Pressures report coincides with the launch of a Brussels blueprint to improve quality by tackling the obstacles that hamper action to safeguard Europe's water resources.
Only 53% of EU waters are likely to achieve good status by a 2015 deadline set by the Water Framework Directive, according to the European Commission. Major additional action is therefore needed to preserve and improve EU waters, it has warned.
The EEA's assessment says its results should be interpreted cautiously, partly because data is not always comparable between countries. And it notes that overall concentrations of several water pollutants are falling in many river basins.
If ammonium and phosphorous levels continue to decline at their current rate, they will be at good status levels by 2015 and 2027 respectively, the report says. Nitrates, too, are falling, but the report says they will still be too high for several decades at the current rate of decrease.
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