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Ronny Patz
Political Scientist ()

Political Scientist from the University of Potsdam (focus: EU affairs & networks), Advisor to the Transparency International EU Office, Co-Editor at Bloggingportal.eu.

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Water scarcity, a European water strategy, and why the EU co-sponsors Th!nk5

Published 19th January 2011 - 4 comments - 4753 views -

Fellow Th!nker Jason has already brought up the topic of "Water scarcity" in his latest blog post, with a closer look at this in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). And Th!nker Mamen made us aware of how we in Western societies, to which EU countries belong, have become so much used to running water. And the special Court of Auditors report on the use of EU funds for water-related projects that I have covered in my first Th!nk5 blog post also refers to the topic of water scarcity several times.

Now, the European Union has been frequently tackling water scarcity questions in recent years. And when you have read to the end of this post, you may also understand why the EU Commission might have had a very concrete interest in co-sponsoring this blogging competition.

The latest efforts on the matter of water scarcity have been introduced by the EU Commission about four years ago, namely with its 2007 Communication "Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union" and its 2008 "Follow up Report to the Communication on water scarcity and droughts". Both documents are clearly referenced in the Special Auditors report, too. In early 2008, the European Parliament secretariat, on the request of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety published a study titled "Water Scarcity and Droughts". And the latest EU-level coverage of the subject came in the form of the June 2009 EU Council conclusions (the Council is the institution representing the ministers of the EU member states) on "Water scarcity, drought and adaptation to climate change".

The 2007 Commission Communication concluded that:

The challenge of water scarcity and droughts needs to be addressed both as an essential environmental issue and also as a precondition for sustainable economic growth in Europe. As the EU seeks to revitalise and reinvigorate its economy and to continue to lead on tackling climate change, the devising of an effective strategy towards water efficiency can make a substantial contribution.

And the 2008 follow-up report fund that:

a great deal still needs to be done in order to improve water demand management more widely across Europe and to avoid mismanagement of water resources, especially in water-scarce areas.

The follow-up report then announced that from 2009 onwards, the EU Commission would issue an "annual European assessment on water scarcity and droughts", something that (then) EU Commissioner Dimas still confirmed in an answer to a parliamentary question by a member of the European Parliament. However, I wasn't able to find such a report with a simple Google search.

Yet, despite the non-existant or hard-to-find assessment report(s), the 2009 EU Council conclusions reference a very interesting related project, that is the "European Drought Observatory", where you also find a great mapping tool that you can use to see where, for example, there has been not enough rain lately. Simply see the menu on the upper left and chose the information you want to see on the map.

The same Council conclusions welcome plans to establish a "European drought early warning system" and provide a list of possible measures used to prevent water scarcity (quote):

  • water pricing;
  • better irrigation technologies and techniques;
  • water efficiency in buildings, industry, tourism and distribution networks;
  • waste water re-use;
  • awareness-raising campaigns and educational measures;
  • and, where appropriate, small water retention, afforestation and reforestation.

At the end of the Council conclusions, the EU member states welcome the possibility to consider "a European water strategy ("Blue-print for Europe’s Water"), to be presented by the Commission by 2012", which sounds very hesitant and expectant regarding the concrete content that the Commission will provide, but it shows that more is to be expected from the EU in the coming year.

Now, seeing the timeframe of this future water strategy, I am not surprised that the EU Commission is co-sponsoring this Th!nk About It blogging competition on water and paying trips to one of the EU member countries that a) are strongly affected by water scarcity and b) one of the four major recipients of EU funds for water projects (cf. my previous blog post). It seems in the institution's direct interest to get input, publicity and thereby legitimacy on the question of water and water scarcity in order to formulate its strategy and to "sell" it to the other EU institutions, EU member states and EU citizens.

Am I right, European Commission?

Category: Shortage | Tags:


  • Jason Grant on 19th January 2011:

    Interesting analysis and thanks for the specific links. I think you may be on to something here?

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 20th January 2011:

    Thanks for this Ronny. As someone who is not from the EU, I picked up very significant points from this post. Keep em coming!

  • Ronny Patz on 20th January 2011:

    @ Jason & Iris

    Thanks a lot for your positive feedback. I’ll try to follow up on this!

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