Water Quality in MontenegroMontenegro is a small European country in the Balkan region with a population of about 620,000. Since breaking off from Yugoslavia in 1992 and gaining independence in 2006, the country has improved economically and is now classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country. Along with this progress, water quality in Montenegro, as well as water availability, have improved.

In 2015, the World Bank reported that 99.5 percent of Montenegrins had access to an improved water source, up from 97 percent in 2000. This percentage puts Montenegro at some of the highest water coverage in the Balkans, compared to countries like Albania, which is currently at 95.1 percent. Though there has been a history of water and air pollution in the Balkans, Montenegro currently reports low levels of water pollution, even though in recent years the government has identified climate change and wastewater from settlements as potential hazards affecting quality.

Much of Montenegro’s economy depends on its diverse water sources, from its complex system of rivers to its coastline. In terms of its water utility, Montenegro harnesses hydropower as its most important energy resource, though due to seismic risks and other environmental concerns, the country harnesses only 17 percent of its potential hydro power.

Another factor improving water quality in Montenegro is the prevalence of conservation as industry demands for water have changed in recent years. Due in part to economic factors and environmental sanctions, thermo-energy and mining industries have reduced their total water use, helping secure overall water quality, as well as water availability for other industries such as farming.

In the last decade, environmental issues have prompted Montenegro to examine how climate change may affect water quality and accessibility in the future. In 2010, the Initial National Communication on Climate Change of Montenegro recognized that climate change could affect national water resources in a way that may threaten certain industries and the overall availability of quality water.

Due to these threats, the Montenegrin government is looking into developing a national water information system to monitor any changes in water bodies, as well as changes in water quality in Montenegro’s water networks. The United Nations’ Development Program is assisting Montenegro in this endeavor, working alongside the government to create a reliable and responsive water information system as climate change and other factors may cause future changes to the country’s water resources.

Both water quality and availability have improved in the last few decades, with a productive economy helping Montenegro achieve some of the highest water availability in the Balkan region. Despite this, the government has lagged behind in creating a comprehensive water data and information system to help combat changes caused by climate change. In order to secure the quality and availability of its water in the future, Montenegro must meet these challenges head on.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Although there is an abundance of water resources, the water quality in Bosnia and Herzegovina is lacking. Access to drinkable water is far below the standards set by the European Union (EU), which rests on four pillars:

  1. Ensure that drinking water quality is controlled through standards based on the latest scientific evidence.
  2. Secure an efficient and effective monitoring, assessment and enforcement of drinking water quality.
  3. Provide the consumers with adequate, timely and appropriate information.
  4. Contribute to the broader EU water and health policy.

Currently, only about 65 percent of the country’s population has a connection to municipal or public water utilities – the average of European Union countries is 90 percent. Only large urban centers have a satisfactory supply of water, both in terms of quality and quantity. Unfortunately, the poorest and most vulnerable of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population live in rural areas.

However, help has recently come through the implementation of 18 infrastructure projects within the “Securing Access to Water through Institutional Development and Infrastructure in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Implemented through a partnership with the nation’s own citizens, one of the goals of the program is to educate the country’s water supply companies on how to best provide for their communities.

With financing from the government of Spain and support from the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund, the program has been able to help 55,000 people gain sustainable access to clean water. Today, disused water pipes have been replaced, returnee settlements have secured connections to sustainable water supplies, more water springs are protected and filter plants have been installed.

This has constituted an overall increase of two percent of citizens with access to clean water. Although it may not seem like much, it is a fundamental step in the right direction. Damages inflicted during the country’s recent war dealt a blow to the country’s infrastructure, as maintenance was neglected and pollution increased. Therefore, it is precisely with programs like this that water quality in Bosnia and Herzegovina will hope to see improvement.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Lithuania
Lithuania is a small European country located in the south of the Baltic States. Formerly a member of the Soviet Bloc, it has quickly modernized since the last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. The economy was restructured from communism to capitalism and has spent the past 25 years becoming a modern state in every sense. One of the keys to the rapid development of the country has been the water quality in Lithuania, which has been a focus of the government and society in the years since it began rebuilding.

Water quality in Lithuania is monitored by three distinct sectors of government. The Ministry of Health controls and legislates all indoor water, including that used for drinking and bathing. This is supplemented by the State Food and Veterinary Service, which specifically monitors and controls drinking water. The water supply, including groundwater resources and wastewater treatment, is legislated and focused upon by the Ministry of Environment.

This three-pronged approach to water governance has worked remarkably well over the course of Lithuania’s history. From 2003 to 2012, the number of cubic meters of water treated up to established sanitation norms doubled from 85 million cubic meters to 170 million cubic meters, while water treated either ineffectively or not at all has dropped from nearly 70 million cubic meters to less than five over the same period.

Though the standard of water quality in Lithuania is already high, the country has passed legislation to continue raising it. From 2016 to 2021, the Lithuanian government has committed to establishing systems for flood monitoring and management in four of their most important river basins. The government will also comply with the Baltic Sea Action Plan to keep the Baltic Sea environmentally sound by 2020 by reducing pollutants and conserving the biodiversity of the Lithuanian coast.

The commitment to water quality in Lithuania has contributed significantly to the country’s rapid economic maturation and looks to continue to do so. With a constant eye to the future, the three sectors of government responsible for keeping the water supply safe and viable have reduced disposed waste water and increased its recycling since 2012, and the economy has stayed strong, weathering storms of uncertainty throughout Europe. The Lithuanian government’s dedication to water quality is one to be both admired and emulated, as it has led to higher quality of life for the country’s people.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Andorra
Located just between France and Spain lies the principality of Andorra, a small country taking up only 468 square kilometers. With a GNI per capita of $46,650, one might assume that the nation’s water quality is top notch. However, this is not completely true, and only quite recently has water quality in Andorra seen significant improvement.

The country’s work on wastewater purification began in 1996. Since then, four water purification plants have been built in Andorra. Additionally, the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra monitors the country’s water quality by sampling at various time intervals among 37 stations.

The Ministry also actively conducts practical work on the extraction of solid wastes from rivers. Just last year, over 17 thousand tons of refuse were extracted from the Andorran river systems.

As of March 2017, the Ministry reported that the volume of high-quality surface waters in the country was about 86 percent, while eight percent was of acceptable quality, three percent was of poor quality and the remaining three percent was of very poor quality.

By comparison, only 40 percent of surface waters in Andorra were  high quality in 2005. Silvia Calvó, the Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra, stated that the country currently purifies nearly 100 percent of their sewage.

The rising water quality not only improves the drinking water for citizens, but it also helps restore river fauna habitats. The otter populations are also rising within the Andorran ecosystem.

Although it is recommended that tourists drink bottled water until their immune systems adjust to some small concentrations of E. coli that may be present in their water supply, Andorra’s citizens safely consume the water. Andorra has clearly been dedicated to cleaning their water supply through home-grown programs such as the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra. Because of this, water quality in Andorra has improved remarkably within past decades.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in MacedoniaA landlocked nation of mountains, lakes and historic buildings, the Republic of Macedonia is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Macedonia has the distinction of being among the few countries in the world of meeting the water access and sanitation needs for 100 percent of the urban population. In other words, everyone in its urban areas is provided with safe drinking water.

Water is used for electric power, agriculture, industrial and municipal purposes. There is no inexpensive substitute for this precious resource, so measures increasing water efficiency and reducing waste are desperately needed with the looming effects of climate change. According to the Green Growth study, by 2050, all water basins in Macedonia will see a decline in mean annual runoff despite having an increased water supply through 2020.

Increased temperatures mean greater evaporation of water from lakes and reservoirs, thus less water is available for general or industrial use. A World Bank study found that Macedonian crops are adapting to increased temperatures by demanding water a month earlier than they normally do. Additionally, water used for cooling purposes in the thermoelectric sector is greatly stressed, reducing its availability. By 2050, hydroelectric production is slated to sharply decline from about its current production levels of 1,500 gigawatt hours to 1,100 gigawatt hours.

Consistent with the international standards, Macedonia conducts tests on its waters for the presence of physical, chemical, biological and even radiological elements. Eighty percent of Macedonians have access to wastewater, yet only 10 percent of the sewage is treated with the rest being discharged into the three lakes and four river basins in the country. In these situations, water quality in Macedonia could use further improvements.

In 2014, the Woman Engage for a Common Future (WECF) Project devised Water and Sanitation Safety Plans to “encourage the population to promote local action for the improvement of water supply and sanitation systems.” This plan is to be done by engaging local residents, government officials, teachers, students, and the young of the rural populations of both Macedonia and Romania.

Problems remain, however. While 99 percent of Macedonian households have a central water supply system, an inadequate water infrastructure with aging water pipes has deteriorated the condition of the water supply system. This has had a disproportionate impact on both rural and urban areas: according to the U.N. Human Settlements Programme, 23 percent of residents do not have access to good water quality in Macedonia.

Of the water emerging from karst aquifiers, 80 percent is inundated by rainfall runoff and surface water. In rural areas, additionally, usage of pit latrines is common and access to safe water sanitation is difficult if not unavailable.

In the past, the most frequent water borne diseases found in the water supply facilities were diarrhea, intestinal typhus and paratiphuses, and infective hepatitis A. Water-related diseases with infective elements, such as leptospirosis and malaria, have also been found in epidemic, endemic and hyperendemic forms.

To efficiently preserve its water resources and promote their sustainable and safe use, Macedonia needs to invest in its current irrigation infrastructure, incorporate farmer training to minimize water losses, and find ways to prevent, detect and repair water system leaks.

Increasing water demands require greater public awareness of the limited resources and the state of water quality in Macedonia. Together with growing environmental protection, the level of public concern is also increasing. Macedonia is already one of the few countries in the world with very high access to safe drinking water. The country needs to maintain its commitment to improve safe drinking water access for all of its population by 2020.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Google

Water Quality in Luxembourg

Over the past few years, the water quality in Luxembourg has become outstanding. Not only outstanding, but it now has a top rating of excellence, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). The 11 lakes around Luxembourg all received “excellent” status, meaning that the water is free from pollution and is safe for human health and the environment.

In addition to the lakes and bathing areas certified to be safe as far as water quality, the quality of tap water in Luxembourg is safe as well. Although most of the citizens of Luxembourg drink bottled mineral water, it’s all based on the preference of the individual’s taste. World Travel Guide stated that tap water in Luxembourg is safe anywhere in the country, and there have been no medical risks posed by the tap water.

Overall, the water quality in Luxembourg is high in cleanliness and purity. According to Numbeo, the water quality sits at 77.94 percent and the drinking water quality and accessibility sits at 75 percent, which both rate as high in the cleanliness and purity categories. The city of Luxembourg rated very high in all cleanliness and purity categories, with water quality reaching 84.62 percent.

To receive their tremendous water quality in Luxembourg, it uses an ultrafiltration system from the company INGE WaterTechnologies AG, which is the leader in global technology for supplying top-quality membranes and modules. Viviane Loschetter, the Luxembourg councilor, said, “The city of Luxembourg makes tremendous efforts to constantly monitor the quality of the water people drink here.” In essence, the system removes all bacteria, viruses and suspended solids without using chemicals.

One can see that Luxembourg has been successful in its efforts for high-quality water. With their lakes receiving excellent status, and the water being safe to consume, traveling to Luxembourg accounts for little to no worry.

Lindsey Robideau

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality In BelgiumA key indicator of the economic prosperity of a nation is the water quality. In first world countries such as the U.S., Canada and most of Western Europe, citizens can drink tap water without any concerns of getting a water-borne illness. One must contrast this to many developing nations where drinking water from their water systems without purification first could potentially be fatal.

Originally a part of the Netherlands, Belgium gained its independence in 1830. Currently, Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy, which also utilizes a parliamentary system to deal with the day-to-day legislation of running the country. Due to its parliamentary system allowing citizens to have input in what the government does, the water quality in Belgium is very high compared to even first world countries such as the U.S.

A majority of the 589 municipalities in Belgium have programs in place run by their local governance responsible for maintaining the water supply and water quality. Also, Belgium has more than 62 water supply utilities throughout the country.

On top of this, Belgium also has 100 small municipalities that are privately owned that help improve the water supply. This combination of private and public water sanitation allows for the free market to help lower prices for clean water without forgoing having a governmental backup in case the free market fails. All three of these programs is one reason for the high water quality in Belgium.

Although the water quality in Belgium is high enough for its citizens to drink tap water without any ill health effects, the wastewater treatment in the country has lagged behind. In fact, wastewater sanitation did not start to get addressed within the country until 2007 after the European Court of Justice forced the Belgian government to make changes in 2004.

Wallonia, a region of Belgium, supplies 55 percent of the national need for water while it only contains 37 percent of the countries population. This fact becomes an issue due to the fact that Flanders and Brussels both rely on water from Wallonia. Flanders and Brussels rely on receiving clean water from Wallonia, 40 percent, and 98 percent, respectively.

Although there are present issues with wastewater sanitation in the country, the Belgian government has made strides in the past decade in improving its water supply after the court ruling in 2004.

The high water quality in Belgium is one reason why living in the nation is so desirable. One other reason is that the Belgian sanitation departments in the Belgian government recognize the importance of the fundamental right to water.

To help all citizens be able to achieve access to clean water, the Walloon and Brussels regions have set up a program to provide economic support for individuals who have trouble obtaining drinking water. This fund is called The Social Funds for Water, and through this organization, citizens in those regions of Belgium have had their access to water increase dramatically. In addition to this program, every citizen in Flanders has the right to a supply of 15 cubic meters of water per person per year in the country.

The high water quality in Belgium is something the international community should applaud. Every citizen has a right to access clean water, and both the private and public sectors strive to make sure this can happen. Although the country has issues with wastewater sanitation, great strides have been made to improve the water sanitation systems in the country better since the court ruling in 2004. The water quality in Belgium is something all nations to strive to achieve, not only due to its quality but because every citizen has the right to drink clean water.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in TurkmenistanTurkmenistan is an agrarian country in Central Asia that, like other countries in the region, has been heavily dependent on water because of its arid desert climate, high temperatures and low precipitation. This former Soviet republic ranked as the ninth-most water-insecure country in the world and has been ravaged by decades of economic mismanagement during its previous occupation. Water quality in Turkmenistan is rife with problems.

In fact, most of the current ethnic and regional clashes in this central Asian region have centered on the limited water resources available. Water has become a valuable raw material, taking on both economic and social significance. It has effectively become synonymous with life.

Depletion of this precious natural resource as well as pollution of surface and groundwater has straitened the lives of local residents, especially since a whopping 95 percent of the available water resources are channeled towards agriculture.

The rapidly growing population of the country requires commensurate agricultural growth to survive. Agriculture necessitates further irrigation, which further strains the country’s limited water resources.

Turkmenistan water ministry research institute estimates that a third of all land is unusable for agricultural purposes due to heavy soil salinization, caused partly by steadily deteriorating irrigation network. Mountain streams dissipate upon reaching the parched lands so the main water resources are the Amu Darya rising from the snow-capped mountains of Tajikistan and the Murgap originating from Afghanistan.

In June 2015, Turkmenistan suffered its hottest month in recorded history, with temperatures soaring as high as 47.2 degrees Celsius (116.96 Fahrenheit). Water shortage remains the main concern. Yet, just two years earlier, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed a decree on February 22, ordering the planting of three million trees in a “grand greening action” involving more than one-tenth of the country’s population. This is despite the fact that such projects would require significant water provisions, whether through irrigation canals, sprinkler systems or water trucks.

With the difficulties in water supply, water quality in Turkmenistan is being degraded. Difficulties with water conservation and pollution from sewage and drainage water are the main obstacles. A significant part of the polluted water is discharged directly to the deserts. Agricultural wastewater is directly fed to the Amu Darya river, which supplies the farmlands with even more salted water. In 1995, with aid from the United States, a water treatment plant was constructed near Dashhowuz to address the wastewater problems in northern Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan’s “compendium of man-made problems” include the construction of a giant artificial lake, Altyn Asyr (Golden Age Lake), in the middle of nowhere. Environmentalists warn of an ecological disaster waiting to happen, arguing that water will evaporate in route to the desert and cannot be sufficiently replenished to keep the salt levels low. The whole scenario is reminiscent of what has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters” — the shrinking of Aral Sea.

As competition for water rises due to climate change and rising populations, Turkmenistan needs to help reduce its water deficit by improving the technical state of its inefficient irrigation systems, minimize the rate of ecological hazards by reducing wasteful spending on grandiose projects, adopt automated water-saving technology and reuse treated drainage water for agricultural purposes.

Sadly, the country lacks the scientific, technological and financial means to undertake these critical steps. Addressing water quality in Turkmenistan will require the aid and support of the international community.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr