Nutrient discharges from industry and communities reduced sharply since the 1980s

Long-term progress:
Nutrient discharges from point sources have decreased to a fraction of those in the 1980s.
Short-term progress:
Nutrient discharges from point sources, particularly from municipalities, have continued to decline in recent years.
Progress in relation to targets:

Phosphorus discharges into surface waters from point sources 1980–2015

Phosphorus discharges into surface waters

Nitrogen discharges into surface waters from point sources 1980–2015

Nitrogen discharges into surface waters
Source: YLVA. 2019.

Agriculture is the most prominent polluter

Point sources, such as industry and municipal wastewater treatment plants, have succeeded in considerably reducing the flow of nutrients into water bodies since the 1980s. The development was particularly rapid in the 1990s when, for instance, phosphorus discharges from industry declined by 67% and nitrogen discharges by 30%. Although the pace has slowed slightly in the 2000s, reductions continue. In 2000–2010, the combined discharge of phosphorus from industry, communities and fish farming fell by 33% and nitrogen by 16% respectively.

This success has been achieved by improving industrial processes and by boosting industrial and communal wastewater treatment. Better feeding techniques and reduced fish production in Finnish fish farms have contributed to smaller nutrient leakage from fish farming.

No such significant reductions have been achieved in relation to sources of diffuse pollution, and agriculture has become the most important source of nutrients in aquatic environments. According to an estimate by the Finnish Environment Institute, agriculture now accounts for some 70% of the phosphorus load of waters, and slightly less than 60% of the nitrogen load.



  • Finnish Environment Institute. 2019.
  • YLVA. 2019.
  • Vesiensuojelun suuntaviivat vuoteen 2015, Valtioneuvoston periaatepäätös (Finnish Government decision-in-principle on Water Protection Policy Outlines to 2015). The Finnish Environment 10/2007. Ministry of Environment. 2007.
Published 2015-11-17 at 14:56, updated 2021-02-02 at 13:37