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Water Scarcity & Droughts in the European Union

Building blocks: Water efficiency activities

It has been estimated that the water saving potential in Europe stands at 40%. This clearly illustrates the importance of improving water efficiency across a variety of sectors as one aspect of tackling water scarcity and droughts measures. Activities in this area cover four different areas:

Buildings and water efficiency

A study on the Water Performance of Buildings has been completed in August 2012. This study builds on previous studies completed in 2009 and it identifies measures that could bring the most benefit in terms of water saving. The study includes the identification of policies at Member State level that increase water efficiency of buildings, identifies and selects possible policy options and assesses their potential impacts with regards to environmental, social and economic issues.

A previously completed study on the water performance of buildings is available here.

Water-using products

A previously completed study on efficiency standards for water using products (July 2009) will also feed into the project on buildings and water efficiency. This study provides an overview of water using products and the existing policy instruments related to them covering also water efficiency standards for water-using devices used in Europe and some other countries outside Europe.

It analyses the potential of introducing water efficiency standards for Water-using Products (WuPs) at EU level, for the household, commercial, industry and agriculture sectors, and taking into account the use patterns, potential for improvement, water efficiency and market trends for each one of them. It shows that the most relevant products in this matter are those used for sanitation, laundry, washing and outdoor applications. At the industrial level it was noted that figures available are either scarce or too industry-specific, therefore the study focused on the products which are widely used across different industries (cleaning, steam generation, and cooling equipment). Concerning agriculture, difficulties were identified in determining how to measure the water efficiency of irrigation systems, due to the fact that this is dependent on user management practises.

 The study identifies the need for an EU approach that could contribute to water efficiency across Europe, regardless of the variation in climate, population or land use practices in Member States.

A study from 2007 on the water saving potential in Europe, estimates that water efficiency could be improved by nearly 40% through technological improvements alone and that changes in human behaviour or production patterns could further increase such savings. In a business as usual scenario the study estimates that water consumption by the public, industry and agriculture would increase by 16% by 2030. Conversely, the use of water-saving technologies and irrigation management in the industrial and agricultural sectors could reduce excesses by as much as 43.

Reducing leakages in water distribution networks

This pilot project identified the options for establishing a more efficient water distribution system and reducing water losses and related economic losses in Europe. This was done through the development of pilot studies in water-scarce parts of Europe which analysed and quantified the factors of relevance for leakages at a river basin level and determined the links between the leakages and the cost structures in each basin. The studies also identified best practices for minimising water-losses in the EU or other relevant countries and provided recommendations on the possibilities to apply these best practices to areas with high losses

The main output of the project is a consolidated analysis and recommendations on best practices for water efficiency in distribution systems in the EU, as well as recommendations on how the findings of the project could be integrated into policy and the impacts thereof.

Pilot project on prevention activities to halt desertification in Europe

The objective of this pilot project was to support the development of concrete pilot initiatives on innovative technologies, techniques or practices for halting desertification in Europe and to contribute to the exchange of best practices at the local level on four issues: conservation of rainwater and surface water, alternative forms of irrigation, water saving/water efficiency measures and crops less water-intensive crops.