9 Most Polluted Rivers in Europe

In Europe, water pollution poses a serious threat to the ecosystem since it affects both surface and groundwater resources. Industrial, agricultural, urban, and population increase activities are Europe’s main causes of water pollution.

Chemicals, heavy metals, and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen may be released into water sources as a result of these operations.

For both human and environmental health, water pollution can have detrimental effects. Drinking or touching polluted water can make humans sick, and it can also affect aquatic life and ecosystems.

Additionally, water pollution can reduce the amount of clean water that is available for human use, including irrigation for crops and drinking water.

In this, article we discuss a little about some of the most polluted rivers in Europe.

9 Most Polluted Rivers in Europe

  • River Danube
  • Sarno River
  • Ishmi River
  • River Po
  • River Dniester
  • Thames River
  • The Rhine River
  • The Elbe River
  • The Ebro River

1. River Danube

The Danube, which is more than 2.800 kilometers long and flows from Germany through nine other Central and Eastern European nations (Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine), before emptying into the Black Sea, is the second-longest river in Europe after the Volga.

Additionally, it passes through several significant regional capitals, including Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade, and is impacted by industrial pollution and agricultural runoff.

The Danube is the river on the continent with the highest concentration of antibiotics and is also the one with the most pollution, according to a comprehensive global assessment.

Chemical waste is its greatest enemy, and as of 1999, it was being attacked in addition to pesticides used in farming.

The Danube is the river in Europe with the highest antibiotic contamination rate, according to a study. Researchers collected samples from a Danube site in Austria and discovered residues of up to seven antibiotics, exceeding the acceptable level in all nine of the Central and Eastern European nations that the Danube flows through.

River traffic growth is another aspect contributing to the river’s increasing contamination.

The river’s lower portions, where it passes through heavily inhabited areas, have the highest pollution levels. Fish and other creatures have died as a result of the pollution, and the people who live near the river’s banks are experiencing health issues.

2. Sarno River

Italy’s Sarno River travels through the Campania region in the south of the nation. It flows into the Sele River, which in turn flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Possibly the dirtiest river in all of Europe is this one. Even though the river’s source is pure and safe for drinking, the river has over time turned into a poison for the locals.

One of the most contaminated rivers in Europe, the Sarno River has a long history of pollution. While traveling throughout its length displays seas covered with greasy scum and chemical foam, even if its upper reaches are practically pure.

Industrial discharges are one of the main factors contributing to pollution in the Sarno River. The river passes through a densely industrialized area of Italy, and numerous local companies and other industrial facilities discharge their trash into the waterway.

Heavy metals and various compounds are among the pollutants included in the waste from these operations.

Another significant cause of pollution in the Sarno River is agricultural runoff. Numerous farms are located in the area where the river flows, and the fertilizers and chemicals used on these farms drain into the river and poison the water.

Another big factor in the Sarno River’s contamination is untreated sewage. Many of the riverside settlements lack proper sewage treatment facilities, thus their waste is frequently dumped into the river.

Untreated agricultural and industrial waste is being dumped in large quantities, but research also suggests that illegal narcotics like cocaine and morphine are entering the water supply and posing a brand-new, as of yet unidentified threat to people and wildlife.

3. Ishmi River

This is the Ishmi River’s mouth, which lies close to Cape Rodon on the Adriatic Sea.

Ishmi is one of the 1,000 most contaminated rivers on Earth, according to River Cleanup data, and it carries about 700,000 kg of plastic as urban garbage annually. Plastic is always present on Ishmi Beach.

The population of Tirana, the capital city of Albania, as well as a number of other smaller cities, are included in the watershed of this river. A comprehensive system for managing municipal waste is still lacking in Tirana.

At the source, there is no waste selection. The recycling procedure is carried out in a very sloppy manner. In suburban regions, the waste collection services are less effective, and some villages lack waste containers.

In this respect, the Ishmi River and its tributaries serve as “official landfills” for urban waste because so much of the plastic produced in cities and used there finds its way there.

This area of the Adriatic is becoming known for its plastic bottles.

The high concentration of heavy metals (Cd, Pb, NO2, and Zn), which is primarily caused by unchecked industrial activity along the beaches, have a negative impact on the river’s biodiversity and puts locals’ health in jeopardy.

The rivers in Albania are swift and full of water as a result of the slope’s physical qualities, which enables the waste to reach the seashore quite quickly. Following that, all of this pollution travels to neighboring European nations like Montenegro and Croatia.

The photographs show how the absence of government oversight and inadequate management of municipal trash disposal result in an environmental catastrophe that pollutes not just the Albanian coastline but also the coastal areas of other Balkan countries.

Every year, the Ishmi River’s mouth transports about 730,000 tons of plastic.

Even worse, the fisherman and the numerous tourists who used to frequently visit the beautiful Adriatic shore up until recently accept the presence of plastic as normal.

4. River Po

The Po, the longest river in Italy, has been severely contaminated by sewage, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste.

People that reside along the river’s banks have had health issues like cancer and birth deformities as a result of the pollution levels in the river. The ecosystem of the river has also been harmed by pollution.

5. River Dniester

A major river in Eastern Europe, the Dniester has been severely contaminated by sewage, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste, especially in its upper reaches. in Ukraine.

6. Thames River

It is undoubtedly hazardous. Through London, it is tidal for most of its length and features a number of problematic currents in addition to multiple bridges and weirs with toes in the water.

The United Kingdom’s Thames, which was once seriously polluted, has made major advancements in recent decades. However, sewage overflows and agricultural runoff continue to pollute it. Before it is suitable for swimming, a long way still needs to be traveled.

Even though it’s much cleaner now than it was in the past, it still requires a skilled pilot to navigate, and swimming is definitely not advised (the worst accident in British inland waters happened in 1878 when the overcrowded pleasure steamer Princess Alice was struck by a collier off Woolwich pier, right where London’s collected sewage was dumped into the river).

Not the most hazardous river for navigation in Britain. The second-highest tides in the world are experienced as the Avon (Bristol version; there are other Avons) winds through a narrow canyon. (tidal range up to 15 m).

Old-time sailing ship captains were more afraid of traveling between Bristol City Docks and the Bristol Channel than of anything they might encounter at sea.

7. The Rhine River

Another significant European river that is seriously contaminated is the Rhine, which is situated in Western Europe. Agricultural runoff and industrial pollutants both have an impact on the Rhine River.

It is contaminated by sewage from nearby cities and industrial garbage as it runs through six different countries. Although the Rhine’s pollution levels have decreased recently, there is still a long way to go before it can be consumed safely.

8. The Elbe River

The Elbe River, which flows across Eastern Europe and Germany, is impacted by industrial pollution and agricultural runoff.

People that reside along the river’s banks have had health issues like cancer and birth deformities as a result of the pollution levels in the river. The ecosystem of the river has also been harmed by pollution.

9. The Ebro River

The Ebro River, which is in Spain, is impacted by sewage that has not been cleaned, agricultural runoff, and industrial pollution.

Which country has the most polluted rivers in Europe?

According to European Environmental Agency, Ukraine has the most polluted rivers in Europe.


It’s important to keep in mind that these are just a few examples and that there are many additional extremely polluted rivers in Europe and other regions of the world.

In general, rivers near places with poor environmental standards or those that are heavily industrialized are more likely to be contaminated.

It is critical that actions are taken to address the issue and safeguard these essential resources because pollution can have detrimental effects on both human health and the ecosystem.

We must cooperate and take responsibility for environmental conservation now more than ever. Simple, individual actions can effect change and help prevent additional harm to our planet’s rivers.

Along with requesting from governments and other appropriate authorities that the unrestricted dumping of industrial and human garbage into these rivers must end at all costs, we may also support conservation efforts.

Supporting reforestation initiatives might be one of many additional environmental protection measures. Every time a consumer uses one of Aspiration’s cards to make a purchase, a tree is planted in the name of the company. In order to plant trees and lessen your carbon impact, it collaborates with top forestry partners worldwide.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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