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Water Scarcity & Droughts in the European Union

dry treeWhile Europe is by large considered as having adequate water resources, water scarcity and drought is an increasingly frequent and widespread phenomenon in the European Union. The long term imbalance resulting from water demand exceeding available water resources is no longer uncommon.

It was estimated that by 2007, at least 11 % of Europe's population and 17 % of its territory had been affected by water scarcity, putting the cost of droughts in Europe over the past thirty years at EUR 100 billion. The Commission expects further deterioration of the water situation in Europe if temperatures keep rising as a result of climate change. Water is no longer the problem of a few regions, but now concerns all 500 million Europeans.


The main overall objective of EU water policy is to ensure access to good quality water in sufficient quantity for all Europeans, and to ensure the good status of all water bodies across Europe. Therefore, policies and actions are set up in order to prevent and to mitigate water scarcity and drought situations, with the priority to move towards a water-efficient and water-saving economy.

EU Action

The major challenge from water scarcity and droughts has been recognised in the Communication “Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts" from the European Commission adopted in 2007 [COM(2007)414]. Implementation of the Communication is periodically assessed through annual Follow-up Reports.

2012 Water Scarcity and Droughts Policy Review

Based on the periodical Follow-up results, assessment of the River Basin Management Plans and further information which has not been addressed so far, a Policy Review for water scarcity and droughts has been completed in November 2012, which is part of the "Blue Print for Safeguarding European Waters" adopted by the European Commission on 14 November 2012.

The review concludes that the overall objective of the Water Scarcity & Droughts (WS&D) policy - to revert the WS&D trends - has not been achieved, even if progress has taken place in implementing the 7 policy instruments identified in the Commissions Communication from 2007. The WS&D policy has to some extent been considered as self-standing by Member States and a stronger focus on quantity issues in the implementation of the WFD is critical. In the next implementation cycles of the WFD this need to be ensured along with further integration of water quantity issues into sectoral policies. The majority of measures applied by Member States target pressures, state and impacts and only very few measures target key drivers. The identified policy gaps and concrete options to address them are considered in the Commission Communication 'Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources' with a view to integrating water quantity issues more fully into the overall policy framework. Where relevant, further policy measures may be addressed in the Adaptation to climate change Strategy foreseen for spring 2013.

Current and previous studies that contributed to the 2012 Policy Review

Please see below for more information on EU action on water scarcity and drought

What are the differences between water scarcity and drought?

Policy development from 2007 to present: The 2007 Communication, Follow-Up Reports, and preparations for the 2012 Policy Review

 Other instruments to deal with water scarcity and drought

Related research projectsand resources