|air||water||environmental protection||nature||Climate change||Weather||Seismology|
Why should we care?
Slovenian authorities feel obliged to protect health and wealth of its citizens, providing not to harm the rest of the world. Slovenia tends to manage its water wealth in a sustainable way since it has grounded its tourist offer on the clean water.
Slovenia is a country of water, but its aquatic wealth is not evenly distributed.
Although it has a small surface area, this country features various types of watercourse, a consequence of the diverse geological make-up of the land and varied topography. Slovenia has a relatively dense hydrographical network, and in effect Slovenes live surrounded by water. The great difference in the amount of precipitation between areas in the west and those in the east of the country means that in some places there is regular or occasional flooding, while a few areas face a lack of water and drought.
The population density and its related pressure on the aquatic environment also differ. Water quality is impacted especially by agriculture, so great attention is paid to agri-environmental measures. Water is a public good administered by the state. The state strives, as far as it can, to achieve the goals of environmental policy, these being ensuring the sustainable exploitation of the country’s aquatic wealth, improving the state of its ecology where it is still not good, and conserving it where it is good. In recent years numerous municipal treatment facilities have been constructed, and some are still being built. More than half the population’s wastewater is treated in municipal or communal facilities.
Human health is a key factor in the quality of life, and it is affected to a great extent by the state of the environment, especially by clean drinking water. Karstic water merits special concern, owing to its vulnerability and meagre capacity for self-purification. Since such water supposedly accounts for almost half Slovenia’s reserves of groundwater, its protection is especially important. Caution is desirable across the entire area of the karst, since many routes of underground watercourses remain unexplored. In addition to responsibility for the health and well-being of people living in Slovenia, the government is bound to exercise concern for water through its membership of the EU and through numerous signed international treaties. The state and development of phenomena in this area are therefore closely monitored in part through fulfilment of obligations under European directives and international conventions.
What are the state and impacts?
On average there are sufficient quantities of water in Slovenia and most of it is in good ecological state. There is a noticeable impact of agriculture on water quality, especially in eastern parts of the country, which are dryer. There is also a concern about the decreasing of groundwater level in certain areas.
On average there are sufficient quantities of water in Slovenia and most of it is in good ecological state.
Ecological quality of rivers
The first assessment of the ecological quality of rivers (Figure 1) in compliance with the Water Directive was carried out as part of drawing up the Water Management Plan (WMP). To begin with the assessment covered only bodies of water that had not been extensively changed through human encroachment.
The majority are in good ecological condition; more data is given in chapter d) - What is the 2020 outlook?
Figure 1: Ecological quality of rivers in Slovenia
In general, Slovenian rivers possess good oxygen conditions and few nutrients.
Ecological quality of lakes
The three biggest natural lakes have been assessed. Account has been taken of the biological elements of quality, general physical and chemical parameters and special contaminants, but not of fish, since as in the case of rivers, an evaluation methodology has not yet been formulated. Lake Bohinj has been classified as being in very good ecological condition, and Lake Cerknica as good. The reason for the moderate quality of Lake Bled is the excessive burden of nutrients.
Nutrients in rivers and streams
Slovenian rivers are fast-flowing, so they possess good oxygen conditions and few nutrients. The concentration of nitrates is slightly above the natural background, estimated at 1 mg N/L (4.4 mg NO3/L). Average concentrations are lower than 10 mg NO3/L, with higher amounts apparent in northeast Slovenia, although for the most part they do not exceed 40 mg. No major seasonal variations have been observed (VD10).
Figure 2: Average concentrations of nitrates (mg NO3/L) in surface watercourses, 2004-2007
Groundwater quality is better in Karst regions and western parts of Slovenia then elsewhere.
Eutrophication in lakes
Eutrophication, especially the accumulation of phosphorus in water, is a problem for the majority of lakes in the temperate climate band, which in Slovenia is only Lake Bled. Increasing the concentration of nutrients accelerates the growth of phytoplankton, which contribute to reduced translucency. At Lake Bled an improvement in quality, mainly the result of measures taken, has been observed. The average concentration of phosphorus, however, is much higher in artificial retention lakes in central and northeast Slovenia that lie in areas of intensive farming (VD07).
The water bodies most affected by human activity are in the northeast of Slovenia. A three-year data series indicates, with a high level of reliability, the poor chemical condition of the Savinja, Drava and Mura basins, and, with a low level of reliability, the eastern Slovenske gorice area. Of pesticides, the concentrations of atrazine are most commonly exceeded, although concentrations in groundwater are falling.
In karstic and fissure watercourses, which account for around 50 % of groundwater reserves, the groundwater is less burdened with pesticides and nitrates, owing to less intense settlement and sparser agriculture (VD06), (VD05). These water bodies have been assigned good chemical quality with a high or average level of reliability. The chemical state of groundwater (VD11) for the period 2006-2008 is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Chemical quality of groundwater bodies, 2006-2008, and forecast of trends at individual measuring locations
Pesticides represent a serious threat to the groundwater.
The rivers and lakes are not burdened with hazardous substances. The assessment of the chemical condition for 2006-2008 indicates that only two bodies of inland water did not achieve good quality, owing to excessive concentrations of mercury and tributyltin compounds, respectively (VD12).
Ammonia contributes to the eutrophication of water. It is estimated that that this comes primarily from the land – farming and poor sewage systems – rather than from the air, although there is a lack of any longer-term series of measurements that might confirm this view, nor is there a study on the proportion of nutrients entering water from the air.
Figure 4: Chemical quality of rivers and lakes in Slovenia
The water balance in Slovenia is generally favourable.
Only half the water that flows into or falls in the country is consumed, and one fifth of the groundwater. The use of groundwater for irrigation is almost negligible relative to the total consumption of water in Slovenia.
With an average precipitation level of 1,580 mm a year, and an outflow quotient of 54.5 %, the water balance in Slovenia is generally favourable. The average annual air temperature is rising, and there are pronounced differences in the spatial distribution of precipitation. In the 30-year water balance period 1971-2000 an 11 % increase in evaporation and a roughly 6 % lower surface run-off relative to 1961-1990 has been observed.
In 2006 aquifers carried a total of 922 million m3 of available groundwater, or around 460 m3 per inhabitant of Slovenia. A total of 21 % of the available quantities of groundwater was abstracted for consumption.
Figure 5: Water balance elements by river basins in Slovenia in 2007
Primorska region and northeast Slovenia could suffer most due to a drought.
Since 1992, a total of seven summer droughts have hit agriculture. The drought accounted for 80 % of the total damage incurred from natural disasters in 2003. At least 15 % of the country’s surface area is threatened by a lack of water in the soil in summer months, most of all the Primorska region and northeast Slovenia. In observing climate change there has been a noticeable shift towards a serious lack of water in the interior of the country, too.
Figure 6: Agricultural drought
Water scarcity is mainly a consequence of the uneven distribution of precipitations.
The summer of 2003 saw the consequences of the uneven distribution of water resources in Slovenia, and in places also the weakness in the supply of drinking water, with a full 47,396 people. 2.4 % of the population, needing to be supplied with water brought in by tanker. Despite reserves in the Alps, the most favourable scenarios indicate that water shortages may be expected in the north-eastern parts of the country.
Floods threaten more than 3,000 km2 or just fewer then 15 % of the country’s surface area. As much as half the flood zone is in the Sava basin, 40 % in the Drava basin and 4 % in the Soča basin. There is a threat primarily to flash-flood ravines, valley floors and, in many places, built-up alluvial plains. There is less extensive flooding from coastal tides and karstic flooding. In part of the flood areas grassland and pasture have been converted to cultivated land, and in some places flood areas have also been built on. In 1991 the area of usual flooding was home to 7 % of the population, a quarter of whom live in areas affected by major floods (PS01).
A rise in the sea level of 1 mm a year has been recorded. In the period 1960-2006, on 306 occasions the sea level reached the flood point of 300 cm above normal. Frequent sea flooding occurs mainly in the autumn and winter, and occasionally in spring, with the frequency increasing. The flood area is most extensive in the municipality of Piran, and in times of exceptional flooding, 2.5 % of the total population are threatened in coastal municipalities.
Figure 7: Flood areas
In the future, the phenomenon of lowering surface level of certain parts of groundwater bodies will be closely monitored.
Decreasing groundwater levels
Estimates of the quantity of groundwater bodies provided by the hydrogeological service of the Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) point to a relatively good situation, although concern has arisen in recent years over the lowering surface level of certain parts of groundwater bodies. In the future, because of possible unfavourable developments owing to climate change, this phenomenon will be closely monitored.
Loss of wetlands
The most important preserved wetlands in Slovenia are flood meadows and wet grassland, which humans have created in part and help to preserve through extensive farming. They cover around 20,000 ha. In order to promote more intensive agriculture, drainage, regulation of watercourses and reinforcing of banks have destroyed wetlands in the central courses of rivers, for instance in Pomurje and the Vipava valley, and along the coast through the construction of transport infrastructure and urbanisation.
Loss of habitats/species
Activities, such as urbanisation, construction of transport infrastructure, tourism and industry have led to a loss of natural aquatic areas and coastal land, and with them a shrinking of the habitats of certain species of plants and animals.
Impacts on human health
Over the period 2004-2007 the quality of drinking water in Slovenia (VD08) did not significantly improve, either in terms of microbiology (ZD04) or chemical pollution. There was a favourable trend only in medium-sized and large supply areas. Supply of compliant and adequately healthy drinking water is enjoyed generally by 91 % of inhabitants who are supplied in large mains supply areas.
Figure 8: Wetlands
What are the related drivers and pressures?
Except the impact of climate changes, significant rise of environmental pressures is not expected. Agriculture, energy sector and partly tourism remain the key driving forces of pressures to the environment.
Except the impact of climate changes, significant rise of environmental pressures is not expected.
The density and total number of inhabitants in Slovenia are gently rising, mainly through immigration but also, once again, from positive natural growth. The number of households is growing, owing to a reduction in the number of household members. Smaller households have higher environmental costs. Growth is being seen primarily in small settlements close to the larger cities, where major investments are needed for the adequate provision of municipal services and infrastructure. Pressure for new construction is greatest in areas of high-quality soil in lowland areas intended for farming (KM17).
In 2006 groundwater bodies held a total of 922 million m3 of available groundwater, or 759 m3 per inhabitant. Use of water in industry has been reduced considerably. By far the greatest use, 99 %, has been for electricity generation. In 2008 more than 82,000 million m3 of water ran through turbines, and was then fully returned to the stream.
Primary importance in drinking water supply in Slovenia is held by the quality of groundwater, since this resource supplies as much as 97 % of the population (VD01).
Data on water abstraction in Slovenia have been reliable since 2002, when the Waters Act laid down the acquisition of water rights for any special use of water. By 2008 around 40,400 legal entities and individuals had acquired rights for special use of water (VD14).
Of the remaining percentage of non-hydroelectric use of water, the major portion – 60-70 % or 800 million m3 – is for electricity generation in thermal power stations. Since 2002 water use for technological purposes has been declining, and accounted for just 4 % in 2007. Other uses – irrigation, snowmaking, beverage production, etc. – represent a small proportion of consumption, but they are growing.
Water demand, Households, Industrial production
Statistics on the quantity of water pumped into the mains water system for use in households and manufacturing indicate a reduction in the last decade, primarily due to more efficient use of water in industry – thanks to the impact of taxes payable for burdening water – and farming. Household consumption of water has not changed significantly.
More than half of Slovenia’s land surface is covered with forest, other mainly natural growth, including natural grassland, wetlands, aquatic, slightly or non-overgrown surfaces, covers 4 %, 35 % is mainly used for farming, while just under 3 % is artificial surfaces (CLC2006,TP01).
Data from the more detailed land use database (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia) indicate that between 2002 and 2007 the total extent of cultivated fields and gardens declined by 15.4 %, hop gardens by 16.3 %, land left to overgrow by 12.9 %, vineyards by 12.4 % and other uses by 20 %. The total extent of forests in this period increased by 1.5 %, olive groves by 41.7 %, grasslands by 6.9 % and extensive orchards by 2.2 % (KM10).
Agriculture is a relatively small sector of the Slovenian economy. Its share in GDP declined to 1.7 % in 2006, and its labour productivity is below the all-economy average.
Mineral fertiliser consumption decreased by 22.8 % between 1992 and 2006, which can be explained by stricter implementation of the principles of good agricultural practice that includes fertilization plans based on soil analyses. There was a downward trend in pesticides in most groundwater bodies between 1993 and 2005. Due to their persistence, atrazine and desethylatrazine are still among the substances that most often exceed the threshold values for individual pesticides in groundwater bodies comprising alluvial aquifers (KM19).
Slovenia derives a major part of its tourism potential from its aquatic wealth. All the natural attractions, whose visitor numbers (TU02) are monitored by Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS), are associated with water. Most important among these are the two biggest Alpine lakes, Bled and Bohinj, and the karst caves of Postojna and Škocjan. Another important element is health spa tourism. With the proper provision of municipal services in growing coastal settlements, the direct input of pollutants into water from tourism has been reduced in recent years, although the need is still growing for the supply of tourist facilities with drinking water. There has also been an increase in maritime traffic and nautical tourism, and consequently a decline in the condition of all environmental components along the coast (TU01).
In recent years, with the increasingly persistent awareness of the possibility of climate change, pressure on water has also been growing in the mountainous areas of Slovenia as, in winter, there is a growing demand for snow-making on ski slopes (VD14).
Figure 9: Tourist overnights in coastal areas, by month, 2007-2009
Most of renewable electricity comes from large hydropower plants.
In 2007, electricity from the big hydroelectric stations, >10 MW, accounted for 19 % of electricity generated, and 84.6 % of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. This is followed by small-scale hydroelectric stations, with 3 % and 12 % respectively (EN17).
The estimated economic exploitation potential amounts to between 7,000 and 8,500 GWh a year, and in 2007 generation amounted to 3,265 GWh. From 2000 to 2007 the actual capacity of hydroelectric stations increased by 18.4 %, a result of refurbishing and was supplemented in 2007 by new small hydroelectric stations, whose total combined generation was 409 GWh in 2007 (EN19).
Further exploitation of water potential for generating electricity is problematic primarily in terms of preserving the vulnerable natural environment. There is discussion of exploiting the hydroelectric potential of the River Mura.
Impact of climate change
Analyses of the hydrological state in Slovenia indicate that the available quantities of water are diminishing and that the distribution of precipitation is changing in terms of time and space. Greater regional difficulties are anticipated due to the following effects of climate change: greater frequency and strength of hydrological, meteorological and geomorphological natural threats, droughts, heat waves, storms, high winds, frosts, hail and fires in the natural environment due to temperature extremes, a change in precipitation and flow regimes and a deterioration in the ecological and chemical quality of water.
The proportion of the population whose wastewater is treated in municipal or communal treatment facilities, rose from barely a fifth in 1998 to almost half in 2007. Sixty-five per cent of a total of 111 million m³ of treated wastewater attained a secondary level of treatment in these facilities in 2007. Compared to other European countries, the proportion of inhabitants connected to the wastewater drainage system is low, largely a consequence of the scattered settlement of Slovenia (VD02).
Emissions to water
Point sources of water pollution cause problems chiefly during periods of low flow of watercourses and when legally established emission values are exceeded. However, it is harder to exercise control over diffuse sources of emissions into surface and groundwater. There are difficulties in removing wastewater from settlements where sewers and treatment facilities are not yet properly in place, and these are compounded by nutrients from plant protection agents used in agriculture. In the Danube drainage area the calculated total annual emissions in 2003/2004 amounted to 6,339 t/year of nitrogen and 27 t/year of phosphorus, while in the Adriatic drainage area in the same period annual emissions were 641 t/year of nitrogen and 3 t/year of phosphorus (VD10).
Figure 10: Natural resources: Large and small hydroelectric stations
What is the 2020 outlook?
The anticipated climate change is expected to contribute to the reduced availability of water due to increased use in agriculture and in energy sector. Majority of Slovenian waters meet international goals for water quality. There are programmes for improving and maintain water quality in implementation and the revisions in preparation.
The anticipated climate change is expected to contribute to the reduced availability of water due to increased use in agriculture and in energetic sector.
Future needs for water resources
The operational programme for drinking water supply up to 2013 sets the objective of ensuring safe drinking water supply for everyone. In the event of microbiological pollution there is a need to adhere consistently to the principles of multiple barriers and to carry out the preparation of drinking water where necessary. In the event of chemical contamination – pesticides, and nitrates – measures need to be taken in water protection areas. Polluted small systems needs to be corrected or closed down and residents hooked up to medium and large-scale systems.
The anticipated climate change is contributing to the reduced availability of water and more frequent and longer-lasting spring and summer droughts. In Slovenia drought accounted for more than 80 % of the damage from natural disasters in 2003, 70 % in 2000 and 60 % in 2001. Agricultural drought was also encountered in 2006 and 2007. Owing to climate change – rising temperatures and increased evapotranspiration, less and more imbalanced precipitation in terms of timing and location, increased frequency and intensity of extraordinary weather phenomena, etc. – there will be a heightened role for Slovenian agriculture and forestry in ensuring environmental and ecosystem services. Farm and forest management must also play a major part in efficient water use in drought-prone areas, in the protection of watercourses from excessive emissions of nutrients, in support for creating the conditions to ensure clean drinking water, in improving the control of floods and other natural disasters, in preserving and increasing the numerous functions of the forests, and in maintaining and renewing multi-purpose landscapes.
The construction of dams and irrigation systems ranks among the most important objectives of agricultural policy. This also includes long-term planning and construction of irrigation systems with the adequate provision of new water sources and the prudent conservation of existing ones. Climate change projections indicate that without any adaptation, it will be impossible to maintain farming in the most vulnerable areas, while yields and competitiveness will be reduced in other areas. Since Slovenia is among those countries with the smallest surface area of cultivated land per inhabitant in Europe, and the world market for agricultural products is uncertain, maintaining agricultural areas is strategically important. Ensuring the possibility of carrying out supplementary activities on farms should facilitate the marketing of water resources and eco-tourism. The National Strategic Plan for Drought Management and Water Use envisages the drawing up of a plan for urgent measures to cope with droughts – priority water use – and amendments to the laws governing water and agricultural land, through the introduction of regulations for the proper use of water in farming and determining appropriate priority areas during water shortages. Simplifying the process of issuing of water permits and acquiring documents to construct small accumulation ponds in the direct vicinity of cultivated farmland, and for boreholes and wells is envisaged.
Slovenia does not have very extensive renewable sources of energy at its disposal. In addition to biomass, which is generally located far from the bigger cities that need heating; it has almost no sustained wind; frequent sub-alpine cloudiness limits the cost efficiency of solar energy; geothermal energy is more or less limited to the north-eastern part of the country or its heat pumps require the input of non-sustainably produced electricity, so hydropower remains the most realistic possibility. The construction of a chain of hydroelectric stations on the lower Sava, and possibility also on the Mura, is envisaged, alongside the major prospect of building small hydroelectric stations. A pumping hydroelectric power station to cover peak demand has just been built, and one is planned.
Water quality issues as they relate to achieving the international goals on water
The Slovenian Environment Agency started implementing the monitoring programme under the Waters Directive in 2007. Of 121 surface water bodies in the Danube drainage area, 100 were classified, with 44 not matching the objectives; 2 of 44 classified as very poor, 6 as poor and 36 as of moderate quality. The remaining 56 water bodies achieve the environmental objectives, with 49 being classified as good and 7 as being of very good environmental quality. Of 34 water bodies in the Adriatic drainage area, 28 surface water bodies were classified. Of these, 5 do not achieve the objectives set out in the Waters Directive; 1 of 5 is classified as poor and 4 as of moderate quality. The remaining 23 water bodies achieve the environmental objectives, with 19 being classified as good and 4 as being of very good environmental quality (osnutek NUV-WFD River Basin Management Plan 2010 reporting - draft). Slovenia’s objective is to achieve overall good water quality by 2020 at the latest.
Sanitation and biodiversity
As regards water, there was a noticeable improvement in watercourse quality between 1992 and 2000. The construction of treatment facilities and sewage systems is proceeding in accordance with the programme. An increasing proportion of people have access to clean and unquestionably good drinking water and proper sewage systems. The intensiveness of Slovenian farming has eased in recent years, which is good for environmental protection and food safety, and consequently for human health and preservation of biodiversity.
Sustainable access to safe drinking water
Water intended for human consumption must meet an adequate health standard. The sustainable provision of water and adaptation to climate change will be governed by the Water Management Plan. Setting the prices of services in this area has a major effect in terms of increasing the sustainability of water resources. An important element of ensuring safe drinking water is water protection measures, first and foremost good monitoring of quality, and then a range of operational programmes.
Climate change impacts
The regional scenario for how climate change will develop indicates further increase in annual average air temperatures, and consequently rising temperatures of the soil and surface water, greater evapotranspiration and shorter duration of snow cover. Despite comparable annual precipitation, Slovenia faces more frequent and more intense hydrological droughts in spring and summer and floods in the autumn months.
Wastewater treatment trends
The Operational Programme for Removal and Treatment of Wastewater for 2005-2017 envisages the construction of a system of public sewage and municipal water treatment plants. By the end 2017 more than 1.5 million, or 75 %, of Slovenia’s inhabitants will be connected to the public sewer system (VD02).
What are the policy responses?
Slovenia is implementing the Operational Programme for Removal and Treatment of Wastewater, which is currently being revised for the period from 2005 to 2017.
Despite the implementation, all programmes are still not giving expected results.
The aim (not achieved yet) is to establish instruments for determining economic prices of water for all types of use by 2010. The need to take into account the principle of recovering the costs associated with burdening water has been laid down in Article 3 of the Waters Act. Article 9 of the Waters Directive states that Member States must take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs, in accordance with the polluter pays principle. The principle of recovery of costs for drinking water supply services and for the removal and treatment of municipal wastewater and rainwater has not yet been fully implemented.
Reducing water losses
Reducing water losses from mains water systems, which despite marked reductions are still around 26 %, is a priority. The Operational Programme for Drinking Water Supply envisages the investment of €50 million in measures on the municipal and regional levels.
Information on more water-efficient practices
The International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) was established with the aim of setting up an international regime of navigation on the Sava and its tributaries, the sustainable management of water and the adoption of measures to prevent or limit threats or risks.
In 2008, the Centre for Managing Water of the Drava Basin was opened in Maribor, in order to establish, maintain and build upon the integrated management of Drava basin water. The centre will also strive to establish various forms of cooperation between organisations and individuals in drawing up detailed plans for managing the Drava basin and resolving the specific problems of local communities in the area of protection from the harmful effects of water.
The Coastal Area Management Plan (CAMP) is a programme under the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) aimed at the sustainable management of Slovenia’s coastal area, and brings together concern for the environment and development planning.
The Helios fund for preserving clean Slovenian waters has, for more than a decade, worked to maintain and improve the quality of water as a natural asset. Emphasis is on the renewal of major local wells, which in the past represented a source of clean, potable water, but are now popular attractions and gathering places for local people. Yet since a clean environment and water are a common concern and responsibility, on the establishing of the fund it was decided that buyers should also be indirectly included in preserving natural beauty. By purchasing environment-friendly products they contribute money towards the financing of numerous nationwide environmental campaigns in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning.
Economic instruments as an incentive for polluters to reduce pollution at source
The National Environmental Protection Programme (NEPP) envisages, as a priority for achieving its aims in terms of financing, the fairly fundamental principle of the polluter pays. The NEPP therefore defines economic instruments – taxes, subsidies, environmental accounting, internalisation of costs, etc. – and such environmental contributions as a basic source of funds in the system of financing environmental protection. Currently Slovenia only has wastewater contributions, which are collected by municipalities.