EU warns of water waste, calls for higher prices

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EU leaders agree that too much water – up to 40%, according to the Commission – is being wasted by consumers, industry and farmers across Europe. The EU executive is calling for higher water prices and better implementation of existing water-management rules.

EU environment ministers met in Lisbon over the weekend for an informal Council meeting to discuss options for dealing with an increased frequency of droughts and water shortages, exacerbated by the effects of climate change (EURACTIV 31/08/07).

Ministers called for more co-ordination across the EU in response to droughts, better implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD – see our LinksDossier), and possible future legislative measures to follow up on the Commission’s 18 July Communication on water scarcity and droughts, which calls for higher water prices to discourage waste (EURACTIV 18/07/07).

In co-ordination with the meeting, the Commission published a new report warning that 40% of the EU’s water is currently being wasted. The Commission is concerned about a “further deterioration of the water situation in Europe if temperatures keep rising and no clear mitigation strategy is adopted”. 

The EU’s thirst for water is expected to grow 16% by 2030, but this demand can be met more than twice over through water-saving measures, according to the Commission.

France’s Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo released a statement calling for more water meters to be used by French farmers and for a reduction of water waste in buildings.

The WWF welcomed the Council’s call for better implementation of the WFD, which it considers a sound framework for managing water in the EU. The comments came despite WWF’s complaints about the Directive’s weakness in terms of specific water-quantity control measures in the agricultural sector.

But the environmental group was cautious about the call for new legislation in the Presidency Conclusions, arguing that in the current political context, any new Directives might be designed as a way to tone down existing obligations under the WFD.

Portugal, which holds the rotating EU Presidency until December 2007, is lagging behind other member states in the EU in terms of implementing the WFD, according to the Commission’s latest implementation report.

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