Safer management of Europe's water resources
The dam at Lake Serre-Ponçon in the French Alps
controls water flows, sixteen hydroelectric plants
use the water, and the lake provides irrigation
© choucashoot - Fotolia.com
On 17 December 2012, the EU's Environment Ministers adopted conclusions setting out key actions to improve governance by those involved in managing water resources, namely: improving land use, addressing water pollution, and increasing water efficiency and resilience.
The conclusions are the Council's first response to the recent Commission communication "A blueprint to safeguard Europe's water resources". They underline the need for better implementation of the current water legislation. This also goes for the integration of water policy objectives into other policy areas, such as the Common Agriculture Policy, the Cohesion Policy, renewable energy, and transport.
The EU and its member states should ensure the sustainability of all activities that have an impact on water resources and thereby contribute to securing the availability of good-quality water, which will also curb the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems.
Member states are urged to improve policies to address the main challenges facing EU waters: water scarcity, which is a growing problem in Europe, and floods and droughts, which have become more frequent and damaging over the past thirty years.
Freshwater constitutes only about 2% of the water on the planet, and increasing demand may lead to an estimated 40% global water supply shortage by 2030. The main causes of negative impacts on water status are interlinked: they include climate change, land use, economic activities such as energy production, industry, agriculture and tourism, as well as urban development and demographic change.
EU water policy has successfully contributed to water protection over the past three decades. Europeans can safely drink tap water and swim in thousands of coastal areas, rivers and lakes across the EU. Pollution from urban, industrial and agricultural sources is regulated and this has brought about significant improvements in the quality of European waters, particularly by reducing an excess of pollutants.