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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Spatial analysis of water quality and income in Europe

Brockwell, Erik; Elofsson, Katarina; Marbuah, George; Nordmark, Sandra


The purpose of this study is to empirically investigate the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) relationship between water quality and income within the European Union, considering spatial interdependences across countries. To this end, we apply a spatial econometrics framework using panel data, at the national level, for twenty EU countries across seventeen years, 1998 to 2014. Furthermore, we account for the role of human and livestock population size, institutional quality and economic openness for water quality. Results show that a significant EKC relationship is seen with an inverted N-shaped relationship between income and water quality. Water quality is decreasing in income for low income levels, increasing in income when GDP per capita for medium income levels, and deteriorating for high income levels. Eight out of twenty countries have income levels associated with a declining water quality. Spatial spillovers between countries are significant. Higher livestock density levels are associated with lower levels of water quality, while institutional quality and openness to trade are positively associated with water quality


Environmental kuznets curve; Institutional quality; Spatial error model; Spatial spillovers; Water framework directive

Published in

Water Resources and Economics
2021, Volume: 35, article number: 100182

          SLU Authors

        • Marbuah, George

        • Sustainable Development Goals

          SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
          SDG10 Reduced inequalities

          UKÄ Subject classification

          Economic Geography
          Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

          Publication identifier


          Permanent link to this page (URI)