Greater efforts on pricing and efficiency are needed to reverse the over-exploitation of Europe's limited water resources, argues a European Commission report on the EU's strategy to tackle water scarcity and drought.
An effective water pricing policy and water-saving measures are essential to ensure that Europe has enough quality water to meet societal needs and face the challenge of climate change, notes the second follow-up report on the EU's 2007 Communication on Water Scarcity and Drought.
The report shows that some member states have begun to suffer "permanent scarcity across the whole country". While the pressure point is currently in the south, with Cyprus experiencing the severest water shortages, the Commission expects water stress to spread to South-East and Central Europe (EURACTIV 09/04/10).
According to the progress paper, the problem is not limited to Mediterranean countries. The Czech Republic has reported areas with frequent water scarcity, and France and Belgium have reported over-exploited aquifers, it notes.
Delays in implementing EU law
The EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD) already requires member states to introduce water-pricing policies with incentives for efficient water use, but little progress has been made so far.
The Commission is concerned by delays in implementing the WFD in the member states most affected by water scarcity.
The deadline for submitting national plans for managing Europe's river basins was set for March 2010, but in some countries, consultations on the plans are yet to begin.
2012 policy review on water scarcity and drought
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik said that the report highlights the importance of "integrating water policy into wider policy goals" at EU and national level.
The Commission is launching a number of preparatory activities ahead of a water scarcity and drought policy review in 2012. It notes that in 2010 the focus will be on efficiency, savings in domestic water use, the potential for savings in buildings, leakage reduction and water efficiency in agriculture.
The EU executive has already announced plans to table a directive on water savings in buildings by the end the year (EURACTIV 02/04/10).