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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Europeans call for stronger EU action on Water

Brussels, 22 March 2012 – Close to three quarters of Europeans think that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe, according to a Eurobarometer survey published today. A sizeable majority – 68 % – think that water-related problems are serious. Droughts, floods and chemical pollution are seen as significant challenges. 62 % of citizens also feel they are not sufficiently well informed, while 67 % think the most effective means of reducing water-related problems would be awareness-raising about water-related problems. Heavier fines for polluters, a fairer pricing policy or financial incentives (tax breaks or subsidies) also gained support. Against that backdrop, 73 % of Europeans call for more measures at EU-level to reduce water problems.

European Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "The European Union has been working for years to improve water quality, and we have results to show for it – the quality of drinking water and bathing water is much better than it was, and many more towns and cities have proper treatment of their waste water. Species like salmon have reappeared in a number of European rivers where they were no longer found. This shows that working together throughout Europe can bring real results. But droughts and floods are becoming more common, and Europe's waters are under increasing pressure from challenges such as pollution and climate change. Citizens realise this and they are asking the EU to respond. These results are an important input to the coming Blueprint to Safeguard European Waters."

Water-related problems are seen as serious

Citizens are worried about both water quantity and quality. Droughts are a stronger concern in the Mediterranean countries, with citizens in Portugal (96 %), Spain (95 %) and Italy (94 %) reporting it as a serious problem. Floods are seen by a large majority of Europeans (79 %) as a serious problem, and the issue is a major concern for an overwhelming majority of people in Romania (96 %), Bulgaria (94 %), and Poland (94 %). A majority thought that water quality has either improved (23 %) or remained the same (25 %) over the past ten years, while 44 % believe it has deteriorated. Chemical pollution is cited as the biggest threat to water resources by a majority of Europeans (84 %) followed by climate change (55 %) and changes in water ecosystems (49 %).

61 % of interviewees felt they were not doing enough to protect water resources, but they also consider that more efforts are needed by industry (65 %), agriculture (51 %) and energy producers (47 %).

Request for more information

When asked about solutions to the water challenges, 67 % of Europeans consider that providing more information on the environmental consequences of water use would be most helpful. They see awareness-raising as the most effective means of reducing water-related problems.

Indeed, even though citizens are taking small individual actions to save and protect water, including limiting the amounts used or using less pesticide in their gardens, a majority of 61 % feel they are not doing enough to protect our water resources. Citizens wish to do more to protect water resources and to be better informed in order to do so.

But to tackle the water issues, Europeans also ask for the introduction of heavier fines for polluters, a fairer pricing policy or financial incentives (tax breaks or subsidies). A majority support water pricing based on volumetric use, and agree that prices should increase as the environmental impact grows.

Strong support for EU-level action

73 % of Europeans consider that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe. This trend is confirmed all over the continent as the majority of citizens in all Member States think this issue should be addressed at EU level, ranging from 55 % in Estonia and 56 % in the UK up to 81 % in Slovakia and Germany. Europeans consider that the main focus of such measures should be on water pollution from industry (69 %), agriculture (39 %), the overuse of water (30 %), floods and droughts (24 %).

A Blueprint for water policy

These issues will all be considered by the European Commission in the "Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources" planned for November 2012. The Blueprint will identify current gaps and future priorities, and propose measures to steer water policy development until 2020. It will be based on an analysis that integrates economic and climate modelling in the period up to 2050.


This survey was carried out in all 27 Member States of the European Union between 5 and 7 March 2012. Some 25524 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed in their mother tongue on behalf of the European Commission.

For more information:

For more information on EU research into water, please see: MEMO/12/203

Contacts :

Robert Flies (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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