The past decades there have been significant progress in treating the sewage and industrial wastes which are being pumped into Europe’s river systems, resulting in lower levels of most pollutants and a measurable improvement in water quality. The agricultural sector, on the other hand, has not made as much progress. Nitrate levels in Europe’s rivers are still as high as they were at the beginning of the last decade.
However, rivers in many parts of the Community are at risk of not reaching good ecological status or potential by 2015 due to a range of human activities. The main factors that increase the risk of not achieving good ecological status, or potential, in European rivers are: nutrient enrichment, physical interventions including river regulation, acidification, organic micro pollutants, heavy metals and radioactivity (LIFE Focus).
In the last decades, the approaches to address water resources management have seriously evolved with a tendency to become more comprehensive and integrative over the water cycle as a whole and across watershed processes (from hydrological to socio-economical). The approach on the dynamics of water resources has gradually evolved from a local/regional characterisation with inputs/outputs very often poorly understood, to comprehensive models at a global scale. These representations of the natural systems need remarkable efforts of conceptualising and modelling the very complex reality, based on extended datasets that gather enormous amounts of information resulted from the monitoring of the dynamics of the hydrological cycle.