Reducing emissions of residues of pharmaceutical substances into the aquatic environment in selected pilot areas (ReAs)

In different environmental media pharmaceutical substances and their residues have increasingly been detected in the last few years – also due to improved analysis. At the same time different measures to reduce these environmental impacts on different levels are being discussed. On the European level for example Directive 2013/39/EG postulates that the Commission “is to develop a strategic approach against the pollution of waters caused by pharmaceutical substances“. 

In addition, a “watch list“ of substances was compiled for substances “which, on the basis of information available, pose a substantial risk for [...] the aquatic environment and for which there is not sufficient monitoring data“ (EU 2015/495). These substances also include the pharmaceutical substances diclofenac, 17-beta-estradiol (E2) and 17-alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) as well as the macrolide group of antibiotics. Based on this monitoring list, monitoring data are to be collected for these substances that can be compared across Europe. If pollution is confirmed across the whole of Europe, the relevant substances should be added to the list of priority substances, and measures have to be implemented by the Member States to reduce or avoid emissions of substances if target values are exceeded.

In order to reduce emissions of pharmaceutical substances into waters, possible downstream measures (wastewater treatment for further elimination of micro pollutants), source-directed measures (including substance development, prescription and application) and decentralised measures for hot spots (for example health care facilities) are available. Against this background the potential of measures to reduce discharge which can be implemented in health care facilities is to be assessed.

The objective of the task is the development, comparison and assessment of different concepts to reduce emissions of pharmaceuticals into water bodies based on the example of selected pilot areas. A special focus here is on analyzing the relevance of health care facilities emitting pharmaceutical substances and on the potential of possible mitigation of emissions at this stage. In addition to compiling basic framework conditions possible emission reduction measures are to be determined and merged into integrated overall concepts by using concrete applications under the respective framework conditions.

Against the background of different possible points of application as well as their different impacts and costs of measures and their possible linkages are investigated more closely for the individual cases. The objective is to derive a useful, sufficiently effective and efficient overall concept under local framework conditions.


Until 31 March 2017


  • Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe