Groundwater quantitative status

© Francisco Javier Domínguez García, WaterPIX EEA2

Groundwater quantitative status is one of two assessments made for groundwater under the Water Framework and the Groundwater Directives. The other assessment is groundwater chemical status.


Groundwater aquifers provide around 42 % of the total water abstraction in Europe, most of which is used for public water supply, agricultural activities, and industry. In Europe, about half of the drinking water is taken from groundwater, with many large cities depending on it for their water supply. Groundwater is also used for irrigation. There can be multiple uses affecting the quantitative status of a groundwater body.

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Around 90 % of the area of groundwater bodies is reported to be in good quantitative status. Significant groundwater depletion occurs Malta, Cyprus, and Spain

The main pressure causing failure to achieve good quantitative status is  water abstraction for public water supply, agriculture, and industry

Groundwater is the water below the Earth's surface in the fractures of rock formations and in soil pore spaces. Groundwater aquifers are embedded in geological layers. The groundwater body is a distinct volume of groundwater within an aquifer or aquifers

Groundwater quantitative status

The Water Framework Directive requires good quantitative to be achieved by ensuring that the available groundwater resource is not exceeded by the long-term annual average rate of abstraction.


Assessment of quantitative status of groundwater bodies

Source: European waters. Assessment of status and pressures 2018. EEA Report No 7/2018

There is a close relationship between groundwater and surface waters. Groundwater provides the steady base flow of rivers and wetlands, hence lowering of the water table in groundwater reservoirs may also impact surface waters and wetlands.

Accordingly, the groundwater level may not be subject to:

  • any deterioration of the ecological status of surface waters

  • any significant damage to groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystems

  • any flow reversals that lead to saline or other intrusions.

Groundwaters are assessed as being in good or failing to achieve good quantitative status. 

Assessment of quantitative status

EU member States and Norway assessed chemical status in 2009, 2015, and most recently in 2021. The results of the 2021 assessment are not yet known.

In 2015, around 90 % of the area of groundwater bodies is reported to be in good quantitative status (FIGURE 2). However, European statistics mask that there are significant  problems with quantitative status in Malta and Cyprus, as well as some river basin districts in Spain (FIGURE 3).


Groundwater bodies: Quantitative status (2nd RBMP), by geological formation

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Groundwater bodies are characterised by their geology and productivity. Under the Water Framework Directive, groundwaters are classified as porous, fissured, fractured or other aquifers. More than half are porous aquifers, followed by fissured aquifers, and these are generally highly to moderately productive. Fractured aquifers, including karst, and local and limited aquifers, which are less common. 


Water bodies failing to achieve good quantitative status, by RBD

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Related Resources

Groundwater quantitative status in Data, maps and tools section

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