Water transparency decreases in the Baltic Sea

  • 2004-12-15
  • By TBT staff
TALLINN - The transparency of water in all the sub-basins of the Baltic Sea has been decreasing over the last century, environmental experts from the Helsinki Commission found last week.

The most dramatic decrease in summertime water transparency - from 40 percent to 50 percent - has been registered in the northern and the eastern Baltic Sea proper and in the Gulf of Finland. In other parts of the Baltic Sea such as the Bothnian Sea and the western and southern Baltic proper the water has become 35 percent less transparent compared to 1903, according to the commission.

In the early years of the 20th century depth observations were made at the depth of 10 meters in most of the parts of the Baltic Sea.

Environmentalists say the main cause of lower water transparency is the growth of the phytoplankton biomass and an increase of cyanobacterial blooms that have been, in turn, caused by wider use of industrial and agricultural chemicals that lead to further eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.

The relatively high content of dioxins in fish muscle and eutrophication were slated as the main areas of concern in Helcom's annual Indicator Fact Sheet 2004 report released last week.

The Helsinki Commission, a nature protection organization formed by EU member-state governments and Russia, follows nature-affecting developments in the Baltic Sea region.

In a related story, last week it was announced that seven water companies, the Environmental Investments Center and Environ-ment Minister Villu Reiljan signed a 1.6 billion kroon (102 million euro) environmental project to improve Estonia's water.

The project, which will be financed by the European Union and federal and local governments, will involve a total of 63 local governments of 10 counties in Estonia's western islands, as well as the Matsalu and the Emajogi-Vohandu basins, and will strive to bring the country's water economy infrastructure into line with EU directives. The project will ensure high-quality drinking water, waste-water purification and improved sewage handling for the local population.

The EU scheme, in which water companies owned by local governments carry out groups of projects, has been applied for the first time in Estonia.