Water quality changes in the Elbe River basin, Czech Republic, in the context of the post-socialist economic transition
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This paper analyses the temporal dynamics and spatial trends in water quality changes in the Elbe River basin in the context of the post-socialist economic transition of the Czech Republic (Czechia). During the 1990s, the Czech portion of the Elbe River Basin underwent significant changes in the quality of surface waters. After a long period of massive discharges of pollution, which reached a peak at the end of the 1980s, a reduction in effluent from industrial and municipal sources led to a substantial decrease in the pollution of the Elbe River and its principal tributaries. The scope and speed of such water quality changes was unprecedented in Czechia as well as throughout Europe. The classification of the spatial distribution of water quality trends revealed that the majority of streams in the Czech Elbe River basin displayed improvement of surface water quality. However, the decrease in pollution levels was spatially concentrated mainly in the Elbe River and its main tributaries. Many of the peripheral streams are, on the contrary, experiencing deteriorating water quality, even in regions where water quality improved in the early 1990s because of a decline in local economic activity associated with political changes in the former Eastern Block countries. Further improvements in water quality are thus dependent on measures adopted across the entire river basin, including the numerous minor streams. The current economic revival in a number of regions where decreases in water pollution were not based on systematic pollution reduction measures, but only on the decline of industrial or agricultural production, may result in a return to deteriorating water quality, primarily in the outer regions of the catchment.
KeywordsWater quality Pollution Elbe River Economic transition Czech Republic
This research was funded by the Joint Research Scheme MSM 0021620831 “Geographical Systems and Risk Processes in Context of Global Changes and European Integration” which is fully appreciated by the author.
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