1. General context

The Axios river basin is located in Central North Greece. It extends from the North borders of Greece with FYROM down to the estuary of River Axios. River Axios is a transboundary river, originating in the Balkan peninsula and flowing into Greece to form a delta, right next to the city of Thessaloniki, which is the second most populated city on Greece (1.5 million people). The estuary has been characterized as an area protected by “Natura” network, for its flaura and fauna diversity and because it serves as a breeding ground for migrating birds. At the delta area, there are many aquacultural activities including fish and mussel breeding areas.  

CS06 Axios

The Axios river basin covers an area of 1 636 km2. The river springs from the mountainous area between Albania and FYROM with a total catchment area 22 250 km2 and only a small part of it (2 513 km2) belongs to a Greek territory. The river flow, arriving from FYROM to the Greek area, depends on the FYROM management policy. Axios is the most important transboundary river in Greece, especially because of his water use for irrigation. In the area rivers Loudias, Gallikos and Aliakmonas also participate in the water supply.

2. The particular case of Axios River and its role in FAIRWAY

Most of the drinking water supply comes from groundwater. The groundwater system related to Axios is GR1003 (groundwater body code). Also Gr1005 and GR1001 are related to rivers Gallikos and Loudias, respectively. The total annual pollution loads of conventional pollutants for the Water District of Central Macedonia are 67.707 tn BOD5, 78.504 tn SS, 32.298 tn N and 4.651 tn P. The organic load and the load of suspended solids are primarily associated with the livestock activities (62-64%) and secondarily with industrial activities (16-20%) and urban wastewater (18-20%). The last two activities are related to point source pollution whereas the 1/3 of the pollution load from livestock activities is mainly diffuse pollution that is mostly located (80%) in the Prefectures of Thessaloniki and Kilkis. 

Main nitrogen pressures are associated with agriculture run off and free range livestock activities (47%) as well as confined livestock activities (43%). The major pressure for phosphorus is confined livestock wastes (43%) and secondarily, urban wastewater (39%). Irrigation consumes the largest proportion of ground water extracted, (520 million cubic meters per year). Consumption for other uses (water supply, livestock, industry) amounts to 195 million cubic meters per year. The rate of groundwater based around 72% of the total. Almost all water systems in the District 10 are under pressure from abstractions.

Significant pressure from nitrate, derived from fertilizers. Anthropogenic pollution from uncontrolled waste disposal sites and municipal wastewater, sheep housing, farms, poultry farms, slaughterhouses, mills, food production units, is observed almost in all water systems. The main contamination, attributed to indigenous natural causes is the Boron and Arsenic. The groundwater and surface water from the area is used mainly for irrigation (72%) and drinking water (22%) purposes. For irrigation purposes 180 hm3/yr of groundwater is abstracted and for drinking water 28 hm3/yr. Mean annual temperature is 14.5-17 °C and mean annual rainfall 800-1000mm. It rains mostly during September to April.     

Groundwater has been proven to be contaminated by heavy metals (Mn, Ni, As, Cr ), F, B, NO3 and phosphates. Also a wide range of pesticides have been detected in various concentrations due to the extensive agricultural activities and the irrational use by farmers.

In FAIRWAY the aims and objectives of the case study are to help achieve:

  • 50 mg NO3/l in the upper phreatic groundwater below agricultural area,
  • 0.1 µg/l pesticides in the upper phreatic groundwater below agricultural area;


  1. monitoring, registering and statistically analysing pressures and pollution indicators. Monitoring farmers' practices according to specific cultivation activities. Quantifying applied fertilisers and pesticide use. Taking into consideration livestock production and source identification of pesticides. Designing and implementing activities related to maximization of best agricultural practices.
  2. Creating a toolbox for 3 cases: (a) safe waters and remaining this situation through educational programs and relation to other on-going projects in the area, (b) warning of pollution presence and activities to reverse the problem (c) pollution occurrence red alert and immediate actions to overcome.
  3. Harmonising datasets and validating results with best laboratory practices. Adopting methods of analysis, pollution concentrations and best pollution indicators in all cases.

3. Mitigation measures used

The farmers grow different crops (grass, potatoes, tomatoes, barley, sugar beets, vegetables, maize and wheat). Main mitigation measures include

  • land use change, changing nitrogen fertilization and groundwater use regulation,
  • application of less manure or no manure application under certain circumstances,
  • choice of pesticides with less environmental impact, lower doses or dosing at specific periods of plant life
  • registration of pesticide use could be implemented.

In order to help farmer participate there will be demonstrations at the case study level of new types of techniques, information and cooperation with the market that sells pesticides or fertilizers. The Ministry of Development had launched a project to pass around information of the stakeholders for these system and tools as basic administrative tools for the development and updated of the water management plans in a river basin level according on the WFD. A minimization and rationalization of pesticide use through state programs and other national activities related to agricultural development, was agreed.

Some of the above measures have been identified by the agricultural advisor and other are possible measures based on prior experience from the study area as well as known pressures influencing the water quality. The use of pesticides and fertilizers seems to be reducing but the effort is not systematically monitored and more guidance, is necessary.

As for remaining challenges, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives have not yet been met for the case study. Drinking water suffers from nitrate and pesticide pollution. Greater participation of farmers is necessary, and clear goals, milestones and success criteria should be met. On-going research is scarce but the major farms have been contacted.

This study has ambitions to be a pilot study for national implementation through the WFD and the consortium of municipalities as well as the ministry of Environment and the ministry of agricultural development

4. Current water governance system

Actors and stakeholders involved in water governance and their roles

The main stakeholders are DEYA Kilkis (administration body for water management in the area of Kilkis), Municipalities of Kilkis, Pella and Imathia, companies related to fruit cultivation and juice production, agricultural unions of Axios river Basin. Stakeholders include: farmers, advice companies, regional government, waterboard, pesticide industry, farmers, contractors, public authorities. Multisector approach: fruit/juice industry, farming unions, ecotouristic activities near axios delta and neighbouring villages to Axios river basin. 

Water quality control processes

CS06 Axios governance

The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agricultural Development are responsible for keeping up with surface waters/WFD directory. Local advisors from the Ministry of Agricultural Development also help set targets. The water district and the Ministry of Environment are monitoring surface water for the WFD. Each municipality, together with the drinking water companies, has its own projects for water monitoring on a monthly basis.

Engagement and multi-actor platforms

There is no pre-existing platform for engagment in the case study, so one will be established under the auspices of FAIRWAY. It will involve a multi-actor approach, including water companies, farmers advice company, regional government, farmers organizations, market (fertilizer and pesticides). The main stakeholders are DEYA Kilkis (administration body for water management in the area of Kilkis), Municipalities of Kilkis, Pella and Imathia, companies related to fruit cultivation and juice production, agricultural unions of Axios river Basin. Their history of collaboration is not clear. We would like to develop a MAP that involves farmers' needs and inform them about the effect of their practices on water quality by including goals, water monitoring, consumers of water, and help their participation in stakeholder meetings. We want the MAP to be a registry database of practices and needs, and to give farmers solutions, and not only regulations and implementation through punishment. The stakeholders will also take part in analysis and evaluation of costs and benefits.



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