Water Blueprint: Glass half full but rivers soon empty
14 November 2012 for immediate release
The European Commission (EC) has today released the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomed the EC’s conclusion that the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the right instrument to achieve good conditions of waters in Europe. However this can only be achieved if the WFD is enforced which is currently far from the case. The Blueprint assesses the progress made in the field of water management in the EU to date, and includes proposals for policies up to 2020.
The Blueprint makes it clear that Member States are lagging behind with implementing the WFD since its entry into force in 2000, and that there are major gaps in several areas. The EEB condemns efforts by European Member States to delay the implementation of the Directive, thus depriving European citizens of their right to enjoying an improved water environment in the foreseeable future. Pieter de Pous EEB Policy Director said: ‘We are pleased to hear that the Commission plans to enforce the WFD in a strict and timely manner based on its country-specific recommendations that will be issued to all 27 countries. The unnecessary foot dragging in this area has already done enough harm to waters, aquatic life, animals and humans.’
The EEB is concerned however that the Blueprint has failed to come up with new measures to improve water efficiency. By 2030 global water supply shortage is expected to reach 40%, meaning that most EU countries will experience water scarcity and shortage. In view of this, the Blueprint’s approach to solely rely on existing instruments, without proposing to mobilize European product policy to address water consumption through household devices and irrigation equipment carries a high risk. Even more worryingly is the lack of support among negotiators on the new Common Agriculture Policy to make the receipt of future farm subsidies conditional on installing water meters and complying with abstraction controls. In some countries, rivers and groundwater reserves will soon run dry or be rendered unusable as a result of sea water intrusion and European citizens will pay a high price for the EU’s inaction in this field.
The Blueprint’s focus on ecosystem-based measures (so-called Natural Water Retention Measures) is welcomed as the right approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Including the WFD in the CAP cross-compliance regime and implementing obligatory water metering and pricing for farmers is essential and a vital first step to correct the farming sector’s wasteful use of water.
 European Environment Agency report: More than half of EU surface waters below ‘good’ ecological status
Pieter de Pous – EEB Policy Director - +32497537364
Alison Abrahams – EEB Communications Officer - +32489304962