The Austrian Court of Audit conducted an audit at the Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management and at the provincial governments of the provinces Styria and Burgenland. The audit took place from April to May 2005 and concerned the environmental situation at the border to Hungary and Slovenia. The audit focused on water quality (bodies of flowing water and ground water), soil quality and nature conservation (Natura 2000). The audit compared the actual state of the audited territory with the quality objectives as well as assessed the measures taken by the responsible authorities concerning their effectiveness to preserve and improve the environmental situation. The audited period covered the years from 2000 to the beginning of 2005.
Within their supervision duties the authorities responsible for water management (water management authorities) checked whether the municipal and industrial sewage treatment plants complied with the conditions defined by legal regulations and permissions. A comparison of the supervision activities in both provinces showed that the authorities of the province Burgenland investigated in a weekly rhythm whereas in Styria municipal plants were inspected three to six times a year and industrial plants usually once or twice a year.
In the opinion of the Austrian Court of Audit the inspection activities of the authorities should be harmonized all over Austria. It recommended that the Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management should work out guidelines concerning the frequency of controls. The frequency should be defined in such a way, that the water management authorities obtain a good overview of the installed systems and their emissions.
The objective of the Austrian Water Act concerning ground water quality is to obtain good chemical and quantitative conditions, a balance between extraction and regeneration and a quality, which generally allows the utilization of ground water as drinking water.
The Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management defined limit values for immissions by issuing regulations concerning drinking water and ground water. Based on the European Nitrate Directive an action programme was developed to protect the water bodies and to reduce and prevent water pollution caused by the agricultural use of land. This “Action Programme Nitrate” limits the application of fertilizers on agriculturally used land.