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Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Saving water to save our future

European Water Stewardship Launch

Brussels, 24 November 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this invitation to take part in the Launch of the European Water Stewardship programme.

Water is a foundation for life- for us as humans, for animals of all kinds and of course for flora. But, it also represents one of our greatest challenges. Over the past decades, the use of water has increased, and in many places water availability is falling to crisis levels. Ecosystems are being destroyed, and – sometimes – permanently.

We need to pursue and even step up our efforts - if we want to ensure sufficient supply of good quality water to cover our needs today and in the future.

The European Commission’s Resource Efficiency Roadmap, adopted in September, addresses part of the challenges by giving priority to measures to save and use water more efficiently.

These measures will be further developed in the "Blueprint for Safeguarding Europe's Waters”, that I will present at the end of 2012. The Blueprint will bring together climate and economic models, and develop a methodology to propose water efficiency targets and improved water efficiency measures.

But today's event is not about what the European Commission is doing or will do. There will be many other occasions to present its initiatives, especially as we have decided that 2012 will be the European year of water.

This event is about what you are doing and what we can do together to design the right policies and develop the right tools to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Indeed our analysis of the policy-needs clearly show that - if we are to develop a more water efficient economy and ensure the quality and availability of our water resources in the future - all actors need to take a proactive role and manage water in a much more responsible way. This is a challenge you have definitively taken up and I can only warmly welcome the European Water Stewardship initiative.

Since we are among friends, among "Water ambassadors" as I like to call ourselves, there is something I have to say. The first time I heard the word "stewardship", my understanding was more intuitive than intellectual. I am not an English native speaker. So I tried to translate it into my mother tongue… I must say it was not that easy. And Google translation did not help!

Anyway the exact translation does not really matter. For me the concept of stewardship is about responsibility and care. It is about the responsibility to take care of something belonging to someone else or of a common good. And this is exactly what the European Water Stewardship is about. It is about the responsible use and protection of one of our natural resources. We often take water for granted. It is not and we have to take care of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, the challenges related to water are big.

We are confronted with numerous old and emerging challenges, including water pollution, water abstraction for agriculture, industry and energy production and land use. Everywhere, notably in water-scarce countries, mismanagement and wastage of water could have very negative consequences on local development and even be the cause of migration flows. Just as important, are the socio-economic challenges to our water resources. Population-growth will require more food and energy which will put water resources under more pressure, both as regards quantity and quality. And we will have to develop tools to withstand the emerging challenges from climate change: reduced water-availability in large parts of Europe and flooding in others.

So the challenges are big. But, we can take them on!

The answer to big challenges lies in – big – important - small steps, like the one you have taken.

So, I thank very much the European Water Partnership for doing its part. Today marks an important milestone for water stewardship in Europe, as you present the standards that are the result of years of hard work.

I understand that the development of the European Water Stewardship was based on wide stakeholders' involvement and an in-depth consultation with water users, authorities and NGOs. I am convinced that this wide stakeholders' involvement will also be crucial in the successful implementation of the Stewardship programme and in the success of our ambitions. I can only encourage you to continue in your cooperation and hope that many industrial and agricultural actors will join this voluntary system in the implementation phase.

We need to build on your achievements and work together to make sure the implementation on the ground really makes a difference.

Let me wish you a very successful launch event and long life to the European Water Stewardship!

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