Fabian Demicoli

Water Scarcity in Europe


Half of the EU's river basins will be
affected by water scarcity and stress by 2030 if action is not taken soon,
according to a report to be published. Despite ambitious goals set in 2000
aimed at safeguarding Europe's water, member states look like failing to meet a
2015 restoration deadline.

The ‘water blueprint' published on 14
November examines progress in member states' implementation of the landmark
Water Framework Directive. The Commission is ruling out new legislation apart
from a proposal to relax standards for water re-use. It states that the
performance must be improved by better implementation and enforcement. For
instance, zones designated as vulnerable to nitrates should be expanded.
Cross-compliance requirements, as proposed by the Commission in its reform of
the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), would encourage better performance.

Member states were required to submit
river-basin management plans to the Commission by December 2009, outlining
action to restore freshwater sites to good ecological status by 2015. Based on
information provided, the Commission estimates that only 43% of sites are in
shape today, and only 53% will be by 2015.

Many member states failed to draw up
the plans in time. The worst offender was Spain, which still has no plans for
19 of its 25 river basins. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice
condemned Spain for not meeting the requirements of the directive.

The blueprint is non-committal on the
controversial issues of water-pricing and water-efficiency. The European
Parliament approved a resolution calling for water-metering to be made binding
across the EU, taking social issues into account.

The most widespread pressure on water
sites in the EU is modification through dams, hydropower or drainage for
agriculture. This affects 40% of EU water bodies spread through 19 countries.
The second most common problem is over-extraction.

The draft text envisages no new
funding for the European Innovation Partnership for Water, which instead must
draw from existing funding. This will come as a disappointment to water
campaigners.

The blueprint will be officially launched at a
water conference in Cyprus on 26-27 November.

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