Water efficiency: Saving the blue gold


The European Commission is planning measures to rein in water use, with a particular focus on savings in agriculture, buildings and industrial processes.

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In 2006 and 2007, the European Commission carried out an in-depth assessment of water scarcity and drought in the European Union.

According to a Commission-backed study (see part 1 and part 2), water efficiency in the EU could be improved by nearly 40% with technological improvements alone. Changes in human behaviour or production patterns could further increase savings, it noted.

The EU executive later presented a set of policy options to increase water savings, highlighting the need to improve financing in existing sectoral policies.

Ideas put forward included improving land-use planning to take account of water issues, introducing more widespread use of pricing and metering technologies – in households and agriculture – as well as promoting water efficient devices. Education and communication campaigns are also in the works to help raise citizens' awareness about water.

A December 2008 follow-up report and document summarised progress made and listed a series of potential EU-level initiatives to foster water-efficient technologies and practices in order to promote the emergence of a water-saving culture in Europe.