Protection of groundwater

The aim of groundwater protection is to maintain a good qualitative and quantitative status of groundwater. Finland’s groundwater bodies are highly susceptible to the impacts of human activities, which is why it is important to take precautionary measures to prevent the deterioration of groundwater quality.

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for groundwater protection and the legislation concerning this. Work to protect groundwater is done in cooperation with various stakeholders.

Legislative acts to protect groundwater

Environmental Protection Act

The key provisions concerning groundwater protection in Finland are the prohibition against groundwater pollution laid down in section 17 of the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014) and the prohibition against soil contamination in section 16, which protects groundwater quality against pollution through the soil.

According to the prohibitions against groundwater pollution, groundwater may not be contaminated or its quality put at risk. The prohibition is an absolute one. Further provisions on the prohibition are laid down in section 4a of the Government Decree on Substances Dangerous and Harmful to the Aquatic Environment (1022/2006) that prohibits emissions into groundwater.

Provisions on the treatment of contaminated soil and polluted groundwater are laid down in chapter 14 of the Environmental Protection Act.

Act on the Organisation of River Basin Management and the Marine Strategy

According to the Act on the Organisation of River Basin Management and the Marine Strategy (1299/2004), the status of groundwater must be at least good in terms of both its quantity and quality. Weakening the quality of groundwater classified as good is forbidden. Any changes in quality must be identified and the levels of substances that weaken the status must be reduced.

The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment use criteria laid down in the Act to determine groundwater areas and classify these with respect to suitability for water abstraction and need for protection. The most important actions to achieve a good status for groundwater are presented in the plans of action specified in the Act. More detailed measures to achieve a good status may be proposed in groundwater protection plans.

The Government Decree on Water Resources Management (1040/2006) lays down environmental quality standards for assessing the good status of groundwater. To protect human health or the environment, these are the levels of substances harmful or dangerous to the aquatic environment that may not be exceeded.

Water Act

The Water Act (587/2011) of the Ministry of Justice lays down provisions on the permits required for water resources management projects and obligations related to the permits, notification obligation concerning water abstraction, water abstraction and protected areas around water abstraction sites, coordination of water abstraction needs, and protection of aquatic habitats. A permit issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency referred to in the Water Act is always required for water abstraction for municipal water services.

More information

Juhani Gustafsson, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Natural Environment, Vedet ja meret 0295250338