Further description:-  Receptor: Water 

Glossary Entry
Entity that may be adversely affected by contact with or by exposure to a contaminant of concern, here 
groundwater and surface water
Risk Assessment: Receptor Water

Risk Assessment: Receptor Water


1.     Summary


2.     Definitions


In the risk assessment framework, as used in the EUGRIS portal the receptor water includes:


  • Surface water that means inland waters except groundwater, transitional waters and costal waters,
  • Groundwater that means all water, which is below the surface of ground in the saturation zone and in direct contact with ground or subsoil.


Pathways that may lead to an exposure of the receptor water pose specific exposure pathways of human health and ecological risk assessment. Therefore the same definitions are valid as established in "Risk Assessment: Receptor Human Health" and "Risk Assessment: Ecological Receptor".


3.     Receptor Identification and Characterization


In the EUGRIS risk assessment framework two different functions are allocated to the receptor water:


(1) Surface water and groundwater are renewable natural resources,

(2)   Surface and groundwater contribute to the drinking water supply for the population.


Thus, the characterization of the receptor water is based on principles used in both ecological and human health risk assessment. From ecological point of view (function 1) water serves as natural habitat of the aquatic ecosystems. Consequently, the characterization requires qualitative and quantitative criteria that allow describing the status of water with respect of its environmental relevance, such as:


  • Composition and abundance of aquatic flora,
  • Composition and abundance of benthic invertebrate fauna,
  • Composition, abundance, and age structure of fish fauna,
  • Mean substratum composition,
  • Impacts to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems depending directly on the surface or groundwater body.


Surface water and groundwater as resource for the drinking water supply (function 2) can be characterize by following criteria:


  • Hydrological data,
  • Geological data,
  • Land use data,
  • Physical-chemical quality data (e.g., pH value, conductivity, nitrate, synthetic and non-synthetic pollutants).


With respect to risk assessment it has to be noted that the characterization of the receptor water in its function as drinking water resource requires the consideration of two exposure routes:


  • Direct ingestion and other exposure from household uses (e.g., showering) of drinking water obtained from the waterbody,
  • Consumption of fish/shellfish indigenous to the waterbody used for drinking water abstraction.


Thus, the ecological characterization of surface water and groundwater needs to consider also anthropocentric issues, i.e. the integration of food web effects, such as biomagnification and bioaccumulation.


4.     Data Sources


Data and information that enable the identification and characterization of the receptor water can be obtained from:


  • Inventory maps providing information on species based on geographic locations,
  • Flora and fauna inventory lists,
  • Surface water and groundwater monitoring programs,
  • Regulatory frameworks (e.g., land/water use category requirements, threatened/endangered species/considerations),
  • Legislative frameworks for water policy,
  • Regional and local master plans for drinking water supply.


5.     Literature


American Society for Testing and Materials (2002):

Standard Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action for Protection of Ecological Resources. West Conshohocken. E 2205-02.


Commission of the European Communities (2003):

Communication from the Commission. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council Establishing Strategies to Prevent and Control Pollution of Groundwater. Brussels.


European Union (2000):

Directive 200/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council Establishing a Framework for Community Action in the Field of Water Policy. Official Journal of the European Community. L 327. Brussels.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1998):

Draft Water Quality Criteria Methodology Revisions: Human Health. Federal Register, 63 (157): 43756-43828. Washington D.C.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1998):

Ambient Water Quality Criteria Derivation Methodology Human Health. Technical Support Document. Final Draft. Office of Science and Technology. Washington D.C. EPA/822/B-98/005



Martin Bittens
UFZ Centre for Environmental Research, Germany

Who does what?