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Results Briefs January 4, 2018

Croatia: Reducing Wastewater Pollution in Sensitive Coastal Areas of the Adriatic Sea


Island of Korcula, Croatia, in the Adriatic Sea

Cities along the Adriatic coastline of Croatia boast a sizable and fast growing tourism industry that is one of the key pillars of the country’s economy. However, the practice of discharging untreated sewage directly into the Adriatic Sea resulted in serious threats of environmental degradation of coastal waters, in addition to constraining tourism-based economic development. From the project’s start in 2009 to the project closure in 2015, the Coastal Cities Pollution Control Project 2 (CCPCP) supported the elimination of untreated wastewater discharge, piloted innovative wastewater treatment solutions, engaged in institutional strengthening, and improved seawater quality monitoring in the coastal area.


Tourism is a key pillar of the Croatian economy, representing around 20% of the country’s gross domestic product (2016 figure). However, the inadequate disposal and management of wastewater in the coastal area was threatening the quality of the Adriatic Sea coastal waters and hindering sustainable economic development in the Adriatic coastline. In line with this, it was essential to reduce the amount of wastewater pollution loads entering the Adriatic Sea. It was particularly necessary to eliminate coastal zone pollution to improve the quality of coastal waters, reduce eutrophication, and reduce the risk of water-related diseases. Importantly, the wastewater services were far below European Union (EU) standards (Croatia joined the EU in 2013) and EU directives requirements (Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive). In 2009, only 44% of Croatians had adequate access to wastewater collection systems, and less than 25% of population had any form of wastewater treatment. The lack of efficient and sustainable wastewater services in Croatian coastal municipalities posed a threat to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, public health, and environmental quality. 

Wastewater treatment facilities, such as this one in Opatija, were built to combat pollution in Croatia’s coastal areas.


The government of Croatia requested the World Bank to help improve the sustainability of wastewater collection, as well as to advance treatment and disposal services for cities along the country’s coastline. To fulfill this request, the Coastal Cities Pollution Control Project 2 (CCPCP) was developed in 2004 to improve the provision of efficient and sustainable wastewater services in participating coastal municipalities. In addition, the project was designed to introduce innovative wastewater treatment solutions to support relevant coastal communities.

The project supported development of new wastewater treatment and collection systems, as well as capacity building for the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the National Water Agency Hrvatske vode (HV) and participating municipal water utilities in project preparation, management, and efficient operations of newly acquired collection and treatment systems.

Wastewater from the coastline’s tens of thousands of homes and businesses no longer pour directly into the sea.


The project (2009-2015) strengthened water supply and sanitation (WSS) services across 23 municipalities. Over 230,000 people benefitted from improved provision of efficient and sustainable water services thanks to the project.

  • The project contributed to successfully reducing the wastewater pollution load entering Croatia’s coastal waters;
  • 14 new wastewater treatment facilities were constructed and put into operation, alongside improved knowledge of alternative nutrient reduction wastewater treatment technologies; 
  • 162 kilometers of wastewater treatment systems were constructed;
  • The percentage of households in participating cities that could connect to wastewater services increased from 26% in 2009 to 72% in 2016;
  • Capacity building of the Croatian government’s wastewater management contributed to improved sustainability of the infrastructure investment programs;
  • 12 submarine outfalls were constructed;
  • The project supported the strengthening of HV as the key institution for the management of wastewater services in Croatia, resulting in more efficient planning, and project management of WSS services;
  • 5 documentation packages for investments to be financed through EU structural funds were prepared, multiplying the project’s financial and environmental impact;
  • The Croatian line ministries responsible for environmental protection and HV were supported to prepare and implement a Water Management Strategy that aligned the Croatian wastewater sector to the EU water directives (WFD and UWWTD).   

Since the construction of the wastewater system, the quality of the water where people swim is now excellent, according to Alenka Turkovic, a technologist at Opatija Waste Water Plant who monitors the seawater for pollutants.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank (IBRD) provided the Republic of Croatia with a loan in the amount of US$87.50 million. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) co-financed the project with a grant in the amount of US$6.4 million to help further reduce the nutrient loads entering Croatia’s coastal waters and to pilot innovative wastewater treatment solutions in several smaller municipalities. The additional GEF financing allowed for the preparation of project applications and documentation for much larger EU structural funds, resulting in significant downstream nutrient removal. The project is the second project supported by a two-phase Adaptable Program Loan (APL) that aimed to help Croatia improve the quality of its coastal waters to the applicable environmental standards. 


Hrvatske vode (Croatian Waters), the main institutional player in the provision and management of wastewater services in Croatia, served as a focal point for the project preparation and implementation. In addition, the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection was responsible for the implementation of the seawater quality monitoring project component.

Moving Forward

The Croatian government continues its commitment to the sustainable and reliable wastewater treatment, especially given the strategic role of coastal cities in the country’s tourism industry. The sustainability of the development outcomes is also ensured by the government’s willingness and obligation to meet agreed EU directives on wastewater collection and treatment (UWWTD) related to the Adriatic Sea. Hrvatske vode continues to use the monitoring and benchmarking system developed under the project as a national benchmarking platform that aims to improve quality and efficiency of water supply and sanitation services. This demonstrates strong ownership by the implementing agency and represents a significant long-term benefit brought about by the project regarding supporting institutional improvement for the sector in Croatia.

Advanced cleaning methods are piloted in some of the coastal areas, like Zadar, where eco-friendly microscopic organisms are now bred to help in the cleaning process by people like Branka Viduka, the technologist at the Zadar plant.


"The biggest problems are buildings which are directly on the coast, but not connected to the system, and which have their own outlets into the sea. With the construction of the waste water treatment system, those have disappeared and the quality of the water where people bathe is excellent."

- Alenka Turkovic, technologist at Opatija Waste Water Plant

“It was really not nice to see.  The area was unuseful for catching fish (or) for swimming, absolutely.  There were more than a hundred of those tubes all around the city.”

- Grga Peronja, who heads the Waste Water Utility in the coastal city of Zadar. 

“They eat all the sewage from the water and they grow. We clean our water strictly just with biological microorganism, nothing else; it is a completely ecological type of cleaning of water.”

“There is no smell and no swimming objects that we saw before.”

- Branka Viduka, a technologist at the new Waste Water facility in Zadar.

230,000 people

benefitted from improved provision of efficient and sustainable water services.