ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine


Today, wastewater contains most varied micropollutants, e.g. residues of household chemicals, body care products and pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics and hormone-like substances which are not eliminated in the wastewater treatment plants. Very low quantities of these pollutants are detectable in waters which may detrimentally affect life in the Rhine and drinking water production.

In its programme "Rhine 2040", the ICPR has agreed that the inputs of micropollutants into the waters of the Rhine catchment are to be reduced by at least 30 % by 2040 compared to the period 2016-2018. In order to review this target at regular intervals, an assessment system was defined for the three emission areas of municipal wastewater treatment plants, industry and agriculture (ICPR technical report no. 287).

In 2019, the ICPR issued recommendations on how micropollutants in watercourses can be reduced to a greater extent. These refer to the following three areas:

  1. Municipal systems collecting and treating wastewater (e.g. pharmaceutical residues and radiocontrast agents),
  2. Agriculture (e.g. plant protection agents)
  3. Industry and trade (e.g. industrial chemicals)

The recommendations are based on a Technical Report published end 2017 on the current pollution of the Rhine with micropollutants and the mitigation strategies already launched in the countries. The recommendations are intended to reinforce and accelerate progress already made in the states.

The recommendations and the balance report are part of an ICPR strategy aimed at reducing discharges of micropollutants from urban and industrial drainage (ICPR technical report no. 181) into water bodies. Within the framework of this strategy, several evaluation reports have already been published, which provide an insight into the consumption and application quantities for various substance groups, the discharge paths into the water bodies, measurement data from surface, ground and drinking water as well as quality criteria and potential measures: Medicinal products for human use, biocidal products and anti-corrosion agents, estrogens, radiocontrast agents, odoriferous substancescomplexing agents, industrial chemicals, the report on the integrated evaluation of all analysed micropollutants, an evaluation report on diffuse entries and a leaflet.