A study released last week at the European Water Conference in Brussels showed that Estonia's rivers, lakes and coastal waters are among the healthiest in the EU.
The assessment of water bodies and water catchment areas indicated that slightly more than 70 percent of Estonia's water bodies are in good natural condition, Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Brita Merisalu told news.err.ee.
The situation was found to be gravest in Belgium and the Netherlands, where estimates suggest that there are no water bodies that are in good natural condition
The study was based on data submitted in 2010 and focused primarily on ecological quality indicators such as aquatic flora, fish fauna and nutrient conditions in the water. It looked at rivers with basins larger than 10 square kilometers and lakes with a surface area greater than 50 hectares.
What sets Estonia's water bodies apart is that they are wild, undisturbed and extremely susceptible to any kind of pollution, which small water bodies cannot tolerate.
Europe-wide, the factors that have the most adverse effect on water condition are excessive water extraction, pollution caused by agricultural activities and the high concentration of various hazardous and toxic substances in natural water bodies. In Estonia, the three main problems are related to the pollution caused by water treatment plants and agricultural activities, and the blocking and damming of water bodies.
Water protection in Estonia is handled by the East Estonia, West Estonia and Koiva Water Administrations, which cover the three main river basins. Each administration has a water management plan that prescribes the means for improving the condition of water bodies. The plans are implemented by the Ministry of the Environment, the Environmental Board and river basin administration-based working groups.