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Water Scarcity & Droughts in the European Union

Good Practices and Learned Lessons

The Commission is working to identify good practices and learned lessons across Europe in preventing and managing water scarcity and drought situations.

Besides the Follow-up reports and other documents presented, there are other relevant projects,which include:


Science-Policy Briefs from the XEROCHORE project

Science-Policy Briefs from the XEROCHORE project are now available for download in 5 languages (DE, EN, ES, FR, IT). These briefs address Articles 5, 8, 9, 11 & 13 of the WFD and briefly describe limitations identified with regard to drought management, and recommendations for improving drought prepardness and mitigation.


Guidance for administrations on making WFD agricultural measures clear and transparent at farm level

The aim of this guidance is to support the national and river basin management authorities in making agricultural measures in the Programme of Measures operational. This guidance document is being developed through a collaborative programme involving the Water Framework Directive (WFD) Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) partners.

The guidance includes results from the discussion that took place at the CIS workshop on "Clear measures for farmers" on 6 April 2011 in Brussels and from the comments and examples received from the partners and the Scientific Co-ordination Group (SCG). This guidance was endorsed by the Water Directors in Budapest on 26 May 2011.

Guidance bg cs es da de et el en fr fi it lv lt hu mt nl pl pt română sk sl sv

Handbook on Farm Advisory Systems

At the workshop on farm advisory and water protection organized by DG ENV in October 2009 in Brussels, the decision was taken to develop a handbook of ideas for administrations about integrating water issues in farm advisory services.

COM services, Expert Group members with the support of a consultant, have developed a handbook outlining examples and approaches for organizing farm advisory.

The final handbook was presented in Seville on 6 April 2010 and endorsed by the Expert Group on WFD & agriculture.

The Handbook on Farm Advisory Systems is now available in all EU languages: български cs es da de et el en frit lv lt hu mt nl pl pt română sk sl fi sv (pdf ~2,5Mb)

LIFE funded projects and actions:


There is a recent LIFE Focus publication (March 2010) as drawn from the proceedings of the first LIFE Environment thematic conference, ‘Water for life – LIFE for water’, which took place in Brussels in October 2009. 

Issues of water quantity and quality are of concern to many European citizens and transcend national boundaries. The aim of the conference was to examine the role of LIFE Environment as an instrument to support the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, alongside other EU water-related legislation and policy. In addition to this general aim, the conference included thematic sessions (with LIFE project case studies) on four specific topics of interest: water scarcity and climate change; hydromorphological alterations; implementation of marine strategy; and eutrophication.

  • Other LIFE projects and initiatives, related to WATER SCARCITY and WATER SAVING projects, such as PROWATER (industrial re-use) or OPTIMIZAGUA (urban and agriculture), are listed below:

    • Abrasive-abraded sludge transformation into "abrading paste", to be re-inserted in the bull-nose manufacturing cycle, by means of an innovative, self-feeding and environmental-friendly "polymeric passive wheel" system (LIFE05 ENV/IT/000907)

    • Excellence in irrigation water management (LIFE05 ENV/E/000313 )

    • Project for recovery and reuse of industrial waters and trivalent chromium generated by tannery waste processing (LIFE05 ENV/IT/000812)

    • Sanitation Concepts for separate Treatment of Urine, Faeces and Greywater  (LIFE03 ENV/D/000025)

    • A dairy industry which is self-supporting in water (LIFE03 ENV/NL/000488 )

    • Optimizagua: Demonstration of water saving for watering uses through the experimentation of artificial intelligence integrated in traditional systems of water control (LIFE03 ENV/E/000164 )

    • Microfinishing: A new dry process of microfinishing of gres porcelain and natural stone surfaces drastically decreasing the environmental impact of this stage (LIFE02 ENV/IT/000052)

    • Tools of self-management for water irrigable in the overused hydric systems (LIFE02 ENV/E/000210 )

    • Durable Regions On Peripheal Areas for Water Reduction (LIFE02 ENV/E/000183)

    • Demonstration Activities for the Reduction of Water Losses and Preservation of Water Quality in Over (LIFE00 ENV/EE/000922)

    • CLEANDECO: Development of a clean coating technology pvd for decorative applications on metal components in place of the traditional (galvanic) coating technologies (LIFE00 ENV/IT/000213)

    • TIEPRINT: Technology Transfer of low environmental impact ink jet printing for the production of textile products (LIFE99 ENV/IT/000122)

    • Reuse of filter backwashwater from groundwater treatment for drinking water purposes with a submerged membrane system  (LIFE98 ENV/D/000509)

    • Zaragoza: water saving city. Small steps, big solutions (LIFE96 ENV/E/000509)

Research projects:

Some of the most relevant research projects for water scarcity and drought are listed below, because they have facilitated the development and/or identification of good practices:

    • Field: AGRICULTURE.
    • Title: "Mitigation of Water Stress through new Approaches to Integrating Management, Technical, Economic and Institutional Instruments".
    • Abstract: In this Project, decision makers have been identified through a stakeholder analysis. They have been invited to participate in the project as members of the stakeholder bodies. Their involvement was primarily aimed to define the institutional framework for water stress mitigation, but they were also actively involved in the selection and evaluation of options. As a result, the conclusions and recommendations applied to the pilot sites have had real value for the local communities, and could be included in the planning agenda of the decision-making authorities.
    • Website:
    • Title: “Farm Level Optimal Water Management: Assistant for Irrigation under Deficit”.
    • Abstract: The project aimed to:
      • Develop and test a sensor technology for irrigation under deficit conditions that could be used at farm level in a large variety of set-ups and constraints,
      • Develop a calibrated water management decision support system to assist in farm zoning and crop planning, in relation with expected water availability, according to basin management. These tools are evaluated at pilot sites in 4 Mediterranean countries: Italy, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as Netherlands; chosen in order to differ in the sort of constraints, irrigation structures, crop types, local water supplies, availability of water and water sources, amount and quality, local goals, and complexity.
    • Project Status: Completed but not yet delivered.
    • Website:
    • Name: "Water reclamation technologies for safe artificial groundwater recharge".
    • Abstract: Deriving reliable policy advice and recommendations from the knowledge obtained through involved case study sites, is a very problematic issue. Aquifer recharge and reuse schemes are highly complex undertakings involving multi-stage treatment processes applying a variety of physical, biological and chemical interactions. Operational and climatic conditions strongly influence scheme performance. Consequently, an evidence-based assessment, which allows scheme planners and designers to select ‘Configuration X’ or ‘Treatment Train Y’ (even for a specific reuse application), is not possible to perform. Even qualitative judgments of ‘better / worse’ or ‘more / less appropriate’ technologies or techniques for specific applications are irrelevant given the different ambitions of the monitored schemes and their operational variation. To conclude, the projects output did not specifically allow drawing out some definitive policy about the pre-treatment or reuse purpose required for a specific aquifer recharge site, or the standard residence time that should be respected for specific types of infiltrated water quality.
    • Website:
    • Title: "Approaches to Adaptive Water Management under Uncertainty".
    • Abstract: In support of implementation of the WFD, the project has developed methods for the transition to adaptative water management in river basins. In order to facilitate the transition process, an innovative training and guidance package has been developed for practitioners in water management to apply these methods for adaptative water management of river basins. The training product deals with topics linked to all stages of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policy cycle, emphasizing on how to support implementation of Adaptative Water Management (AWM), including dealing with uncertainty and how to apply participatory methods. Each training package contains concepts that include tools to support implementation of AWM on different stages. The training package has been tested and evaluated in 7 NeWater case studies "Train the Trainer", in 2-3 days. Furthermore, a special section on Adaptive Water Management was integrated into the WISE-RTD portal ( providing additional access to all the main NeWater outcomes. The online teaching curriculum, providing academic instructors with teaching materials on the theme of adaptive river basin management, can be found at
    • Title: "Groundwater artificial recharge based on alternative sources of water: advanced integrated technologies and management".
    • Abstract: The theoretical background, technologies, methodologies, guidelines, mathematical tools, platforms and decision support elements developed in the project will be implemented at all GABARDINE test sites and intensively disseminated in order to promote the worldwide application of the acquired knowledge. The new concepts of vulnerability and impact assessment, the innovative groundwater simulation tool, the knowledge base platform and the GABARDINE Decision Support System, among other research products, will offer efficient support to ARS planning and management to various potential end users, such as water supply companies or governmental agencies, in order to contribute to the achievement of the overall water resources management objectives as well as water resources and policy development. The main achievements of the project are: 1) Development of a new methodology (named GABA-IFI) for the preliminary identification of candidate areas for artificial recharge; 2) Development of Gabardine Geo-Spatial Database(g) and DPSIR Module; 3) Further development of Decision Support System for Artificial Recharge Project Planning; 4)Dissemination of project concepts to various scientific communities and end-users.
    • Website:
    • Title: "Membrane-based Desalination: an Integrated Approach".
    • Abstract: This Project consists of an innovative approach based on the integration of different membrane operations in pre-treatment and post-treatment stages. The main objectives are: 1) to develop analytical methods for appropriate indicators, prediction tools, procedures and protocols at full-scale desalination facilities; 2) to identify seawater pre-treatment strategies by designing advanced hybrid membrane processes; 3) to optimise the RO membrane module configuration; 4) to develop strategies to approach the concept of Zero Liquid Discharge; 5) to increase the sustainability of the desalination process by reducing its energy consumption rate.
    • Website:
    • Title: "Water and Global Change".
    • Abstract: By bringing together hydrologists, water cycle experts and climate modelers, WATCH will develop new methods to obtain the relevant information (means, extremes and uncertainties) from global datasets and climate model outputs. The final product (threats to future water resources) will drive the combination of this new hydro-climatological approach of assessing floods and droughts in the 21st century with assessments of human and ecological water demands. The products addressed to policy makers are: 1) Finalized scenarios will provide a picture of how agricultural and domestic water use, impacts the global water cycle for past, present and future scenarios. Such maps can assist policy makers in the process of identifying hotspots and can allow local authorities to develop strategies to cope with or to anticipate changes. 2) Maps identifying regions where the hydrological situation is significantly impacted by climate change in terms of e.g. precipitation, soil moisture, river discharge. 3) Space time development and propagation of drought: (a) comparison of selected river basins, and (b) regions. 4) A picture of the location and strength of global feedback hotspots across the globe. Creating a new correction map to allow feedbacks to be supplied into the water resources analysis. 5) Consequences of changing water availability for drinking water, industry and (hydro) energy. This assessment will combine information on population trends and water requirements by utilities with projections of per-capita consumption across a range of national, rural and urban environments.
    • Website:
    • Title: "Climate Change and Impact Research: the Mediterranean Environment".
    • Abstract: Objectives: 1) to predict and to quantify physical impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean area; 2) to evaluate the consequences of climate change for the society and the economy of the populations located in the Mediterranean area; 3) to develop an integrated approach to understand combined effects of climate change; 4) to identify adaptation and mitigation strategies in collaboration with regional stakeholders. The integrated results discussed by the project CIRCE will be presented in the first Regional Assessment of Climate Change in the Mediterranean area. The knowledge yielded by the different specialised investigations will then be linked in an integrated inter-disciplinary approach designed to study the total effect of climate change and to make a powerful contribution to the definition and evaluation of adaptation and mitigation strategies.
    • Website:
    • Field: DROUGHT POLICY.
    • Title: "Exercise to Assess Research Needs and Policy Choices in Areas of Drought".
    • Abstract: This project consists on a Support Action aimed to assist the development of a European Drought Policy in accordance with the EU-Water Framework Directive (EU-WFD). Objectives: 1) a state-of-the-art review and identification of the research gaps in the natural system, in impact assessment, in policy-making and in integrated water resources management, and 2) an assessment of the possible impacts of droughts and guidance on appropriate responses for stakeholders.
    • The Xerochore Project has produced a set of five Science-Policy Briefs in support of policy-making in the field of drought management. The Science-Policy Briefs address Articles 5, 8, 9, 11 & 13 of the Water Framework Directive and briefly describe limitations identified with regard to drought management, and recommendations for improving drought prepardness and mitigation. These Science-Policy Briefs are available in 5 languages:
        • Science-Policy Brief 1: es de en fr it
        • Science-Policy Brief 2: es de en fr it
        • Science-Policy Brief 3: es de en fr it
        • Science-Policy Brief 4: es de en fr it
        • Science-Policy Brief 5: es de en fr it
    • Field: DROUGHT POLICY.
    • Title: "Mediterranean Intermittent River ManAGEment".
    • Abstract: The central area is where the investigations for the mirror basins will be coordinated results of the other WPs used to support the development of the RBMP and to derive finally S/T and policy recommendations for an adequate consideration of temporary waters in IWRM. Additional scientific knowledge will be mainly developed to examine water scarcity scenarios and to evaluate the impacts of climate and land use change as well as threats to ecosystems such as transitional waters.
    • Website:
    • Title: "Assessing Climate Impacts on the Quantity and quality of WAter".
    • Abstract: The goal of the project is to use advanced modeling techniques to quantify the influence of climatic change on the major determinants of river discharge at various time and space scales, and analyze their impact on society and economy, also accounting for feedback mechanisms. Last step of the project will be the creation of a project-based web site and development of links with existing web sites and electronic networks to allow rapid exchange of information and ideas to researchers and end-users. The website will be used to publish, each 6 months, information newsletters that will provide up-to-date information on the scientific results emerging from the project, their policy relevance, and how they can be used and adapted to other mountain regions of the world. The ACQWA home page will be advertised on the websites of other relevant EU projects, academic institutions, governmental agencies and NGOs in order to ensure a maximum of visibility of, and information flow from, the ACQWA project. At the end of the works a summary for policymakers will be provided: this document is similar in its concept to the philosophy developed by the IPCC to condense the information contained in the detailed reports. The ACQWA summary for policymakers will provide a short comprehensive overview of the most important conclusions of the ACQWA Project and the policy-relevant issues and solutions. The document will be circulated via the ACQWA policy+stakeholder interface that is to set up a working group in collaboration with the European Commission. This working group would typically comprise 10-15 persons working at the EU policy level and within governmental (e.g., environment ministries and/or water management authorities) and supra-national bodies (e.g., CIPRA, International Rhine Commission and similar organization). The policy working group will be updated on ACQWA results at regular intervals, both using Internet facilities and through targeted meetings. By creating this “interface”, it is expected that the policy-relevant information will reach the appropriate targets in the most rapid and efficient manner.
    • Website: