Water pollution data in the Baltic Sea basin – a local to regional approach

Policy Brief Published: March 2018

The Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas in the world. Most of the pollution originates from inland activities. Engaging and activating local stakeholders in the 1,500 municipalities in the Baltic Sea watershed is crucial to restore the Baltic Sea and would benefit the marine ecosystems as well as the 9 million people living in the region.

The findings and recommendations in this publication are based on the conclusions from a pilot project “Baltic Sea Pioneers for better Pollution and Reporting.


Local stakeholders such as cities and municipalities can contribute more to the goals and targets in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) through more structured monitoring, reporting and sharing of results, especially on the effectiveness of measures to reduce pollution to water.

Collecting and sharing data on water pollution and measures to reduce it in a transparent and structured way can increase awareness and willingness at the local level to allocate time and resources to implement more measures and improve methods for monitoring and reporting even further.

For municipalities, aligning their actions with HELCOM BSAP, e.g. by developing their own “Local BSAP” can facilitate their environmental work and contribute to improved socio-economic development locally and in the Baltic Sea region.


  • Municipalities need more information on and increased connectivity to HELCOM BSAP. This information needs to be provided by national agencies.
  • HELCOM and national authorities need to provide guidelines and recommendations for municipalities as to which measures are estimated to be most effective in reducing water pollution. HELCOM must find ways to be accessible for questions from municipalities regarding these issues.
  • Targets and recommendations provided by HELCOM BSAP could serve as indicators for municipalities to report their progress and contributions towards protecting the Baltic Sea environment.
  • A transparent reporting system in which local governments can showcase their progress or successes can raise public awareness and publicize the effect of implemented measures. A specific tool for this could be online information systems that share water quality parameters – indicating the effect of the actions that have been undertaken. Information can be made available online either via mobile applications or as public screens and presented in actual numbers or in the form of an indicator, depending on the given parameter.
  • One way for municipalities to contribute to improved water quality both locally and in the Baltic Sea is by developing their own “Local BSAP” as promoted by the Baltic Sea City
    Accelerator programme. Such plans address the water-related environmental and socio-economic challenges of the municipality, while working with the targets and
    recommendations in the HELCOM BSAP as a reference framework. To support and facilitate the development of Local BSAP, HELCOM could develop a provisional checklist based on their priorities. Municipalities can then use this to identify priorities relevant to local circumstances and with a potential to undertake environmental measures.