Improve water protection and quality

A need to adopt measures to significantly reduce water pollution and increase water quality.

A growing awareness in the Mediterranean countries

Municipal waste, urban wastewater and industrial pollution are responsible for 80% of the general pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. A wide variety of pollution sources affect rivers, groundwater, coastal areas and the marine environment, and represent a growing threat to ecosystems and public health. Climate change has a direct (ex. flow rate decrease) or indirect (ex. changes in agricultural uses) role in the water quality degradation.

During the Summit held as part of the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Process in 2005, the Euro-Mediterranean partners pledged to increase their efforts to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean by 2020. This project is now known as the “Horizon 2020 Initiative” (H2020). This Initiative is today one of the key initiatives supported by the Union for the Mediterranean.

Common operational objectives

The draft Strategy for water in the Mediterranean (SWM) outlines that in the medium term (2016-2020), countries shall ensure that all towns collect and treat their urban wastewater before discharge into the environment. In addition, countries should identify the major pollutants, select priorities and determine emission thresholds.

One of the commitments made at the 6th World Water Forum is that “By 2015, each country will set a quantitative target, with an agenda, on reducing nutrient inputs and pollution from urban wastewater effluent and land-based activities, supported by a national prioritization decision to protect and enhance the quality of water for human well-being and to support the sustainability of water resources and ecosystems. The target will be supported by strategic multi-stakeholder collaboration and by increasing scientific and technical cooperation at the international level”.

Towards national studies on the sources of freshwater pollutants within the Mediterranean Basin and their impacts on both ecosystems and public health

The Plan Bleu’s project aims to help Mediterranean countries identify, on a watershed scale, the main sources of pollution concerning their surface waters and groundwater, and their impacts on both ecosystems and public health. This study should serve as a useful decision-making tool so as to prioritize actions to improve water quality.

In 2013, the project will focus on a literature review of existing knowledge on water pollution within the SEMCs and the impacts on both ecosystems and public health.

Key figures

In the Mediterranean Basin:

37% of coastal settlements with more than 2.000 inhabitants without a wastewater treatment plant (2010)

55% of ponctual emmissions of organic pollution due to petrochimical industry, 33% to food processing plants (2012)

45% of nitrogen emissions due to urban wastewater treatment, 20% to livestock farming (2012)

Main sources of phosphorus: fertilizer manufacturing (40%) and livestock farming (39%) (2012)

More information

Stratégie pour l’eau en Méditerranée