Environmental, Political, and Economic Determinants of Water Quality Monitoring in Europe

Water Resources Research, Vol. 46/11: 1–10, November 2010

Posted: 11 Dec 2017

Date Written: November 30, 2010


Effective monitoring is essential for effective pollution control in national and international water systems. To what extent are countries' monitoring choices driven by environmental criteria, as they should be? And to what extent are they also influenced by other factors, such as political and economic conditions? To address these questions, we describe and explain the evolution of one of the most important international environmental monitoring networks in Europe, the one for water quality, in the time period 1965–2004. We develop a geographic information system that contains information on the location of several thousand active monitoring stations in Europe. Using multivariate statistics, we then examine whether and to what extent the spatial and temporal clustering of monitoring intensity is driven by environmental, political, and economic factors. The results show that monitoring intensity is higher in river basins exposed to greater environmental pressure. However, political and economic factors also play a strong role in monitoring decisions: democracy, income, and peer pressure are conducive to monitoring intensity, and monitoring intensity generally increases over time. Moreover, even though monitoring is more intense in international upstream-downstream settings, we observe only a weak bias toward more monitoring downstream of international borders. In contrast, negative effects of European Union (EU) membership and runup to the EU's Water Framework Directive are potential reasons for concern. Our results strongly suggest that international coordination and standardization of water quality monitoring should be intensified. It will be interesting to apply our analytical approach also to other national and international monitoring networks, for instance, the U.S. National Water-Quality Assessment Program or the European Monitoring and Evaluation Program for air pollution.

Suggested Citation

Beck, Lucas and Bernauer, Thomas and Kalbhenn, Anna, Environmental, Political, and Economic Determinants of Water Quality Monitoring in Europe (November 30, 2010). Water Resources Research, Vol. 46/11: 1–10, November 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3085822

Lucas Beck (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
Building IFW, office 45.1, Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich 8092, 8092
+41 44 632 6466 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1289 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ib.ethz.ch

Anna Kalbhenn

ETH Zürich ( email )

CER-ETH Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich
Zurich, 8092

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