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Tapping into Cohesion Policy investment in water services

26 Mar 2021
Panorama - Stories from Regional and urban policy
High-quality drinking water and access to sanitation are essential for our daily life and economic activities. Thanks to EU policy and funding, most people living in Europe enjoy good access to water services. However, there is still room for improvement which is why Cohesion Policy continues to invest in this area, allocating EUR 15 billion to water management in the 2014-2020 programming period, although investment will run until 2023.
Tapping into Cohesion Policy investment in water services

European water policy protects water resources and ecosystems and ensures the safety and availability of drinking water. All aspects of European water policy are linked through the Water Framework Directive, which is contributing to achieving and maintaining good water quality across the EU.

Cohesion Policy water investments focus in particular on countries that are working to meet their basic needs. The greatest support is dedicated to wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure in those Member States which still need to comply with EU objectives. This includes the construction or upgrading of wastewater treatment plans and sewerage networks, as well as sewage-sludge management.

Cohesion Policy also contributes to the availability and security of drinking water, through water-purification plants and distribution networks, especially in areas where the population has no access to adequate water provision.

Better supply and demand

Such water-distribution measures should be accompanied by improvements on the demand side, such as reducing leakages or introducing water-saving measures. Water efficiency helps to preserve the available resources and thereby reduce costs for water users.

In addition, Cohesion Policy is helping those European regions facing problems of water scarcity or drought, which are caused by climate change. In particular, the funds can be allocated to the reuse of wastewater for urban irrigation or to other uses such as investment in flood prevention.

European water policy and Cohesion Policy investments are contributing to achieving the targets set by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation

The data mentioned herein refer to the 2014-2020 programming period; the related investments will run until 2023.

Cohesion Fund and European Regional Development Fund investing in water services

The Cohesion Fund is the primary EU source of investment in water infrastructure to match the specific needs of benefiting Member States. In so doing, it is helping them to meet their basic water needs while supporting compliance with the EU’s environmental acquis in the field of water. The ERDF also invests in infrastructure providing citizens with basic water services. Furthermore, it can support the development of regional endogenous potential through small-scale infrastructure. 

Investments in water infrastructure are part of Thematic Objective 6: Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency. 

Progress in achieving investment objectives

In the case of water supply and wastewater treatment, progress reported towards the indicator targets shows strong similarities at the aggregate EU level: in both cases, achieved (implemented) values are only around 10 % of the targets but, at the end of 2018, the values forecast by the selected projects appear to have exceeded the target values. This is probably due to the common practice of overcommitment which aims to ensure the full use of the funds.

In the period 2007-2013, the bulk of values achieved for the comparable common indicators were only reported late in the period. 

Project examples

Two of the many investment projects in water supply and wastewater treatment are profiled below. For more examples, please visit the Inforegio project database  

Reducing water pollution in Zahodna, Slovenia

The Domžale-Kamnik central wastewater treatment plant in Slovenia’s Zahodna region has been upgraded to substantially reduce environmental pollution in the area. This has improved the ecological status of the River Kamniška Bistrica while protecting drinking water sources. Find out more

Water supply infrastructure upgraded in Florina, West Macedonia, Greece

EU funding has enabled the upgrading of the water-supply infrastructure serving 41 settlements in the communities of Meliti, Perasma and Kato Kleines in the Florina municipality in the West Macedonia region. Find out more 

More information