Citing ”dramatic increases” in the intensity and frequency of water shortages and drought over last 30 years, the Commission has put forward a set of recommendations and policy options, including higher prices and conservation measures.
- The right price for water
The Commission’s new communication on water scarcity and droughts, presented on 18 July, proposes higher water pricing as a means to “put an end to needless losses or waste” of water. The Commission argues that the “‘user pays’ principle needs to become the rule” at EU level, “regardless of where the water comes from”.
With respect to the impact of higher water prices on the more disadvantaged sectors of the population, the Commission believes that “private households should, irrespective of their available financial resources, have access to adequate water provision”.
Water pricing policies are part of a range of “market based instruments”, which the Commission favours for dealing with certain environmental challenges (EURACTIV 20/03/07).
- Use less
Stricter metering requirements, designed to increase oversight of water use, and water-saving devices on showers, sinks and toilets are also given high importance in the communication.
Up to 40 per cent of the EU’s water resources are wasted, according to the Commission.
- Water hierarchy
The construction of a new water supply infrastructure is seen as a last resort by the Commission, which places this option at the bottom of a suggested hierarchy for managing water scarcity.
Water conservation is placed at the top of the hierarchy.
- Existing rules
The Communication also calls for proper implementation of the existing Water Framework Directive (WFD), which introduces a model for water management based on geographical areas rather than on administrative or political boundaries (see our LinksDossier).
The WFD also requires member states to impose, by 2010, water pricing policies in order to encourage consumers to use water resources more efficiently. Although pricing policies are established in many EU states, others have no tradition of water pricing.
- New laws?
No new laws are proposed in the communication.
However, a number of recommendations are put forward, including better land use planning for agriculture and tourism, new drought management plans, and increased use of water saving technologies in buildings.
Further assessment of the “linkages” between water availability and the cultivation of crops for biofuels is also recommended.