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Water Scarcity & Droughts in the European Union

EU Action on Water Scarcity and Drought

2012 Water Scarcity and Droughts - Policy Review

The Environmental Council of 30 October 2007 supported the Commission’s 2007 Communication and invited the Commission specifically to review and further develop the water scarcity and drought policy by 2012.

The review of the Strategy for Water Scarcity and Droughts will – together with an analysis of the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive and a review of the vulnerability of environmental resources such as water, biodiversity and soil to climate change impacts and man-made pressures - be integrated into a planned "Blueprint to safeguard European waters".

This review has recently started on the basis of the follow-up reports, studies and other information available. The Commission has initiated the participation of stakeholders, and in the period leading up to 2012, the preparations for the Policy Review will be intensified.

Stakeholder Meeting (April 2010)

On 27th April 2010, a stakeholder meeting took place, including the presentation of a non-paper presenting the planned studies and projects, comments and discussion on the main potential aspects of the Policy Review. Relevant comments can be downloaded below:

Policy development up to now - 2007 Communication

In 2006 and early 2007 the Commission carried out an in-depth assessment of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union. Following this assessment the Commission presented an initial set of policy options to increase water efficiency and water savings in a Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union (COM/2007/0414 final) published in July 2007.

Seven policy options were identified for tackling water scarcity and drought issues:

  • Putting the right price tag on water

  • Allocating water and water-related funding more efficiently

  • Improving drought risk management

  • Considering additional water supply infrastructures

  • Fostering water efficient technologies and practices

  • Fostering the emergence of a water-saving culture in Europe

  • Improve knowledge and data collection

Based on information from the Member States and its own research, the Commission prepares annual Follow-up Reports that assess the implementation of the policy options throughout the EU. The following reports have been elaborated so far:

2010 Follow-up Report

In the run up to a major water policy review in 2012, the third and final report presents the water management measures introduced by Member States to tackle water scarcity and droughts and highlights the areas for further action. The report confirms that water scarcity and drought is not limited to Mediterranean countries. Apart from some sparsely-populated northern regions with abundant water resources, this is a growing issue across the EU. The Commission will further address this growing challenge in a review of EU water scarcity and drought policy which will form part of a “Blueprint” for safeguarding Europe's waters scheduled for 2012. Over the next months, the focus will be on filling in the knowledge and data gaps and carrying out an impact assessment.

The report is accompanied by a staff working paper on the details of the activities carried out in the Member States.

2009 Follow-up Report

The second follow-up report concluded that the priorities of the 2007 Communication on water scarcity and droughts remain valid in spite the fact that the year 2009 has brought a certain hydrological relief, and that much more effort is needed to stop and reverse the process of overexploitation of Europe's limited water resources. It stresses the Commission's concern about the delay in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the Member States having most of the worst-affected river basins in terms of water scarcity.

In 2010 the focus will be on water efficiency and in particular the potential for savings in the water use of buildings, leakage reduction and the launch of the preparatory activities for the 2012 water scarcity and droughts  policy review.

The report is accompanied by a staff working document presenting the follow-up of the work-programme and further details on activities carried out by the European Institutions and Member States.

2008 Follow-up Report

The first follow-up report points to a number of areas — such as land-use planning, water pricing, water metering, promoting water efficient devices and practices,  education, information and communication — which many Member States have already begun to address. However, it shows that more effort is needed in most of the areas and especially on drought risk management and the financing of water efficiency measures. The report is accompanied by a work programme. The implementation of the work programme will also be monitored and will be part of the review of the strategy for water scarcity and droughts.