Conclusion of the Assessment of Groundwater Bodies at Risk in Bulgaria

Contribution to the implementation of the 3rd cycle of the Water Framework Directive in Bulgaria (2022-2027)

NEMUS concluded, in June 2023, another major water resources planning and management project. This project, which started in 2020 for the World Bank, is part of the Technical Assistance program for the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water.

The project comprised an assessment of 102 of the 169 aquifer systems in the four hydrographic regions of Bulgaria (Danube, Black Sea, East Aegean Sea and West Aegean Sea) and which were considered in the 2nd River Basin Management Plan (2016 – 2021), in poor condition or at risk of not reaching a good chemical and/or quantitative status.

The complexity of applying the guidelines of the Water Framework Directive was accompanied by the challenge of applying specific methodologies developed by the Bulgarian authorities, but also by the need to coordinate the different teams involved.

In addition to the technical staff at NEMUS, there was also a collaboration with Portuguese hydrogeologists from the University of Algarve, partnerships were established with Bulgarian hydrogeology companies and the University of Sofia, and a continuous interaction was maintained with technical specialists from the World Bank, the Ministry of the Environment and the Hydrographic Regions.

One of the main conclusions of the project was that the number of aquifer systems in poor condition has decreased since the previous river basin management plan.

However, eleven aquifer systems were classified as being in poor quantitative condition due to significant groundwater withdrawals. Thirty-six aquifer systems were classified as having poor chemical status due to nitrate exceedances. In the Black Sea region, 4 aquifer systems with signs of saline intrusion were identified.

The project also included the development of a Geographic Information System to support the management of the country’s underground water resources and the presentation of a proposal to improve the representativeness and suitability of the monitoring network.