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Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

dk . k r ma n e s D ark’ nm e t De eb sit i s i V ial w offic


IS CLEAN WATER AN ISSUE? Water is a basic necessity of life which we use in many ways: for drinking, bathing, washing, industrial processes, irrigation and recreation. But for much of the world, water is all too often unclean, threatening both human health and the environment. Providing clean water is a major challenge for the global community.

In Denmark today, clean water is taken  for granted. But it has not always been  so. In the past, vast quantities of effluent  from agriculture and industry drained  into our streams, lakes, harbours and the  surrounding sea. It took a great deal of  political will and years of focused  legislation, research, innovative  technology and investment, as well as  popular acceptance and a willingness to  take on the task and make change  happen. But it has paid off. Today we  drink clean water directly from the tap.  And people can safely bathe – even in the  harbour of our capital Copenhagen!  Campaign for quality 

Denmark’s long campaign to improve  water quality has involved many separate  initiatives: cleaning waste water and  sewage, regulating and reducing the use  and thus the discharge of fertilizers from  agriculture, banning the use of chemicals  that endanger groundwater, cleaning up

deposits of dangerous substances from  former times.  The gains are massive, both to the  economy and the wellbeing of Danish  citizens.  Denmark is now among the world  leaders in several key environmental  technology areas including water  treatment, systems for regulation,  management and monitoring of water  resources and quality, environmentally  sound sewage and sanitation, fish  farming technologies and slurry  separation.  Tackling global issues 

Ongoing efforts will enable Denmark  not only to ensure effective  implementation of EU legislation in the  water area, but also to play a significant  role in tackling global issues in water  quality. The World Health Organization  estimates that close to 4,000 children die  from water‐borne diseases every day,  while UN figures show that more than 1  billion people are still without access to  clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion  people have no access to proper  sanitation. The UN’s stated aim is for  these figures to be halved by 2015.

Partners for progress

As part of the Danish government’s  action plan for eco‐efficient technologies,  a Water Partnership has been established  to provide a market‐driven innovation  platform that brings together Danish  companies, research institutions,  organisations and public authorities with  key competencies in water supplies,  including purification and reuse.  The overall objective for the Water  Partnership is:  • To identify and develop new business  opportunities in conservation,  purification, reuse and management of  water both in Denmark and  internationally  • To help establish development and  business partnerships between Danish  players in the water area  • To gain environmental advantages  from the developed concept solutions

IS CLEAN WATER AN ISSUE? Published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Address: Asiatisk Plads 2, DK-1448 Copenhagen K, Denmark. Published December 2007. ISBN978-87-7667-878-4


SWIMMING IN COPENHAGEN HARBOUR In Copenhagen – the capital city of Denmark – one of the trendiest spots is the public outdoor swimming facility in the Islands Brygge area where Copenhageners come to relax during the summer. Yet only 15 years ago this would have been impossible because the water was polluted to the extent that it posed a health risk. As a result of a long-term effort by Copenhagen municipality, you can swim in the water in the centre of Copenhagen.

For many years, the discharge of waste  water from sewers and industrial  companies polluted the water in  Copenhagen harbour, and outdoor  swimming became a thing of the past.  The water was heavily polluted with  sewage, algae, oil spills and industrial  waste.  Today, the situation is vastly improved  as a result of Copenhagen Municipality’s  efforts to improve the recreational  environment in the harbour area.  Copenhageners can now enjoy  swimming in clean water thanks to the  Municipality’s investments in expanding  its wastewater treatment plants to  remove nutrient salts and minimise  discharge of heavy metals, as well as in  modernising its sewer system. 

In 1995, 93 overflow channels fed waste  water into Copenhagen harbour and the  adjacent coastlines. Since then, the  municipality has built rainwater  reservoirs and reservoir conduits, which  can store waste water until there is space  again in the sewage system. This has  resulted in the closing of 55 overflow  channels so that today, it is only during  very heavy rainfall that waste water  containing bacteria and other pollutants  is discharged to the harbour. On these  isolated occasions, of which there are  very few during the summer season, an  established on‐line warning system  calculates the water quality in the  harbour and the swimming facility at  Islands Brygge is closed if the water  quality is poor.  More bathing areas 

Copenhagen Municipality continues to  modernise its sewage system and plans  to build more rainwater reservoirs so  that by 2010, discharge of waste water  into the harbour during rainfall will be  reduced to a minimum, resulting in  bathing water quality throughout the  entire Copenhagen Harbour. It is  planned to establish two more bathing  areas in the harbour in the near future.

The swimming facility has been expanded since it opened, and now has space for 600 visitors. There are 5 pools in total, two of which are for children.

Managing heavy rainfall

The progressive improvement of water  quality in the harbour in recent years can  especially be attributed to a reduction in  the discharge of waste water during  rainfall.

The Harbour Bath opened in 2002, and is a very popular oasis for Copenhageners during the summer season.


The gains are massive, both to the economy and the wellbeing of Danish citizens. The overall objective for the Water Partnership is: • To id...


The gains are massive, both to the economy and the wellbeing of Danish citizens. The overall objective for the Water Partnership is: • To id...