Brussels, 4 September 2008
At a one-day conference in Zaragoza stakeholders will discuss ways to use water more efficiently in the European Union. The conference follows the Communication on water scarcity and droughts presented by the European Commission in July 2007 and contributions will feed into the report the Commission is due to publish at the end of 2008 as a follow-up to its Communication. The report will tackle implementation and monitoring aspects of the policy options presented in the Communication.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Europe is already affected by water scarcity and droughts. Climate change is likely to further and significantly increase the pressure on water resources. We can expect more water scarcity and droughts in Europe. We must therefore urgently adapt the way we use water to prevent water shortages and their environment, health but also economic consequences in the future. One should realise that Europe has enormous potential to save water if we all adopt water-saving practices."
Saving water is possible - and essential
A study published by the Commission in July 2007 estimates that water efficiency in the European Union could be improved by nearly 40% through technological improvements alone and that changes in human behaviour or production patterns could increase these savings further.
An initial set of policy options to increase water-efficiency and water savings in the European Union was also presented by the Commission in July 2007. Since the publication of this Communication progress in water management has been made, but substantially more can be done to increase water savings in the EU.
The cornerstone of the Commission's policy options is to put the right price on the use of water regardless of origin. Water resources must be properly allocated between economic sectors according to local availability and water saving must be integrated into all policy decisions. In individual households, the introduction of water metering would greatly reduce water consumption as would promoting the installation of water saving devices on taps, shower heads and toilets. And before any new water supply infrastructure is built, plans for managing water demand must be drawn up.
Full implementation of the Water Framework Directive by all Member States is essential as it requires water pricing policies and drought management plans to be drawn up.. Water management needs to be better integrated into land management. This is especially true for rain water. Providing the means for or allowing rainfall to seep into the ground in urban and agricultural areas would go a long way in restoring groundwater and surface water resources in many regions.
The Zaragoza conference
Today's stakeholder conference in Zaragoza is part of the Commission's work to report on how the implementation of the options it presented in 2007 is progressing throughout the EU. Stakeholders include high-ranking EU and national water officials, NGOs, industry, and private and public organisations. The conclusions of the conference's discussions on water scarcity and droughts will be taken into account in the drafting of the report. The Commission believes that getting the European Union to adapt to using less water means involving all interested parties and can only be implemented in close cooperation with Member States.
The follow-up report includes a work programme that will be closely monitored in coming years and will be part of the review due by 2012 on the strategy for water scarcity and droughts.
A Commission White Paper on adaptation to climate change - planned for the
end of 2008 - will further address water scarcity and droughts more globally and
in an integrated manner.