What are pressures?

Pressures are the direct environmental effects of drivers such as climate change, urban development and agriculture. Pressures can occur at different scales in time and space, and negatively affect water quality, quantity and flows in surface and ground waters and reduce ecosystem health and service provision. Pressures can be chronic (i.e. constant) or pulse (i.e. infrequent) in character. Pressures generate a range of stressors, which can occur both individually and in combination.

Pressures are a key element of the driver-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) causal framework for describing the interactions between society and the environment. Pressures can change the state of an environment – e.g. water quality reductions – which then causes impacts such as the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services provision. Such state changes and impacts can trigger societal and political responses and interventions to help mitigate environmental harm.

The WFD Reporting Guidance 2016 (Annex 1A) presents a list of pressures relevant in European freshwaters. Below are the most common pressure types addressed in the MARS case studies. Clicking on the pressure box will provide access to a description of the pressure, its geographical distributions and trends, and the potential for mitigating its impacts.


Kristensen, P. (2004). The DPSIR Framework  (Download report, 0.5mb)

EC (2015). WFD Reporting Guidance 2016 (Annex 1A) (Download report, 5mb)