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Water is essential for humans, animals and plants to survive. It is an indispensable natural resource which is under increasing pressure from the continuous growth in demand for sufficient quantities of good quality water for all purposes.
Aquatic ecosystems have many roles in nature: filtering and converting substances like pollutants, storing freshwater, flood control, climatic regulation; and they are a prerequisite for a diverse flora and fauna.
Protecting such functions requires integration of different policies such as those dealing with agriculture, energy, nature conservation and transport. Without sustainable water management and enhanced governance, severe water stress is expected for some regions in coming years or it is already the reality.
Water protection is a vital component of EU legislation. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) of 23rd October 2000 establishes a legal basis for water protection and management in the European Community, to protect both groundwater and inland surface waters.
Groundwater is freshwater found beneath the earth's surface - specifically in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock - that supplies wells and springs. The definition applies to all permanent and temporary water deposits, formed both artificially and naturally, of sufficient quality for at least seasonal use. Groundwater supplies are replenished, or recharged, by rain and meltwater from snow (including from glaciers), depending on climate conditions. They can usually be recovered from, or via, an underground formation.
Surface water flows over or rests on the surface of a land mass (lakes), natural waterway (rivers, streams, brooks, transitional / coastal waters) or artificial waterway (irrigation, industrial and navigation canals, drainage systems and artificial reservoirs).
The Water Framework Directive includes the prevention and reduction of pollution, promotion of sustainable water usage, enhanced protection and improvement of the aquatic environment and mitigation of the effects of floods and droughts.
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In Eurostat’s database, information can be obtained on water statistics at national and subnational level, including yearly data on freshwater resources, water abstraction and use, wastewater treatment, sewage sludge production and disposal, and generation and discharge of wastewater. General methodological information is found in Eurostat's reference metadata sheet “Water statistics on national level”.
WISE, The Water Information System for Europe, is an information platform on European water issues. It provides a wide range of data and information collected by the European Commission (Directorate General (DG) for Environment, Joint Research Centre and Eurostat) and the European Environment Agency. The DG for Environment leads the policy and strategic aspect of WISE, the European Environment Agency hosts the Water Data Centre and the thematic WISE webpages, and the Joint Research Centre conducts environmental monitoring and water resources modelling including nowcasting and forecasting services.
Europe’s water “Blueprint” includes actions that focus on improved implementation of current water legislation, integration of water policy objectives into other policies, and filling the gaps, in particular as regards water quantity and efficiency. The water blueprint's time horizon is closely related to the EU's 2020 strategy and, in particular, to the Resource efficiency roadmap, of which the “Blueprint” is the water milestone.
Eurostat, Statistics Explained:
- EC: Water Blueprint
- WISE: Homepage
- OECD: Water Chapter of the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction
- OECD: OECD work on water
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