How has the quality of the water in Switzerland's lakes and rivers developed in recent years? And what can be done to improve the condition of the country's surface waters?
Watercourses and lakes are vital resources for humans, wildlife and plants. They shape landscapes, transport water and sediment, help to maintain the natural balance of ecosystems and are used for a wide variety of purposes. However, their capacity to fulfil these functions is impaired by man-made structures, hydropower generation and high-intensity industrial or agricultural use in the vicinity of surface waters.
The Water Protection Act of 1991 provides for comprehensive protection: waterbodies are to be safeguarded from adverse impacts of all kinds so as to ensure that they can serve a wide variety of functions. Ecological goals for surface waters - and the associated water quality requirements - are specified in the Water Protection Ordinance.
Monitoring of waters
The agencies responsible for water protection are required to assess the state of surface waters and to check compliance with legal regulations. In Switzerland, surface water data is collected by various agencies. On this basis, trends can be determined and water protection measures can be adapted accordingly.
Contents of this section:
Guiding Principles for Swiss watercourses
Development goals and measures for sustainable management of watercourses.
State of surface waters
Water quality and the extent of engineering of Switzerland's lakes and rivers.
National River Monitoring and Survey Programme (NADUF)
The National River Monitoring and Survey Programme (NADUF) tracks the concentrations of substances occurring in selected Swiss watercourses.
Modular Stepwise Procedure
Integrated water protection requires accurate knowledge of the current state of waterbodies. The Modular Stepwise Procedure provides a framework for the systematic investigation and assessment of waters.
International water protection
Switzerland – a rich source of water within Europe – is a member of various international water protection commissions.