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A global shortage

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A global shortageThe world's population has tripled this century. Consumption of fresh water has increased sevenfold. Since 1970, the amount of water available for each human has fallen by 40% and two out of five inhabitants of the planet experience difficulty in obtaining water. Europe is not spared this shortage. One third of the continent is under a threshold of 5 000 m3 per inhabitant per year - not only in the Mediterranean regions but also in certain densely populated and highly industrialised northern countries. At European level, 54% of water consumption is accounted for by industry, 26% by agriculture and 20% by domestic users, but this average breakdown may vary significantly from: one country to another. The pressures exerted by increasing demand for water lead to over exploitation of local reserves in many regions. Moreover, 20 European countries are dependent for more than 10% of their supply on river water from neighbouring States and this figure rises to 75% in the case of the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Graphic elementAction

A global shortageThe quantities taken by man cannot ignore the constraints imposed by the natural water cycle - which is far from being the case at present. The danger of over-exploitation is the draining of wetlands, lowering of the groundwater level, even salinisation of groundwater in coastal areas, and ultimately the desertification of certain regions.
With the problem being shared by all, water management has become an important policy of the European Union in recent years. A complex problem, it requires a mobilisation of joint research efforts. There are many courses of action: monitoring and optimisation of use, purification technologies, adaptation to institutional and cultural changes, implementation of plans for the development and protection of resources, application of solutions hitherto more or less ignored such as recovery of rainwater and run-off water, desalination techniques, etc.
These efforts are all the more essential when predicted climate changes pose the threat of major hydrological disruption, which is likely to result in floods, droughts, damage to many ecosystems and threats to water resources and water quality.

Preserving wetlands
The wetlands play a key role in filtering water and absorbing surpluses in the event of flooding. Around 50% of European wetlands have been drained as a result of bad planning. The research carried out by the FAEWE project (Functional Analysis of European Wetland Ecosystems) is aimed at drawing up models for the management and protection of these vital ecosystems.

A global shortage

Protecting aquatic ecosystems
WAtER is a vast network of thematic research on aquatic ecosystems and wetlands. It coordinates some 20 multidisciplinary projects analysing the complex operation of these areas, taking account of their regional differences, their biodiversity, their ability to adapt to climate changes and man's impact. The objective of WAtER is to produce tools for the integrated and sustainable management of run-off water resources for European land use planners.

A global shortage

When desertification threatens
Declining rainfall, over-exploitation of underground resources and changes in land use have led to very worrying environmental situations in the Mediterranean regions. Based on a multi-disciplinary approach, the EFEDA-Hydrology project has highlighted the problem and its socio-economic implications. Taking these results as a basis, the GRAPES project is now developing policies for the rational management of water resources.

Protecting underground resources
Protecting groundwater is an absolute priority in the management of water resources. A number of European projects are studying the problems associated with overextraction, the infiltration of saltwater into coastal aquifers, and pollution caused by agriculture, urbanisation and industry. Solutions are being put forward for the preservation, restoration and sustainable management of reserves including, in certain cases, the possibility of artificially refilling certain aquifers.

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