The European Commission has launched the Water Blueprint, an action plan to protect Europe’s water resources. With this strategy, we want to ensure that citizens, the economy and the environment have good quality water to meet their needs. The Water Blueprint consists of a set of tools that Member States can use to improve water management in different river basins, which are based on the water innovation agreement launched in May 2012.
The quality and quantity of water are two sides of the same coin, since they depend on each other. And is that, despite the progress of recent years, the quality of water in the European Union needs to improve. Pollution, changes in water masses and water shortages are problems that have been seen throughout Europe; in addition to other extreme events, such as floods, which have also increased in many Member States.
European Union water legislation must be fully implemented in order to meet old and new challenges, such as water extraction for agriculture and energy production; land use and the impact of climate change.
During the presentation of the Water Blueprint, Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for the Environment, stated that: “This Action Plan shows that we have a good understanding of the problems that we face and gives us a solid platform to tackle them. The time has come to act to take full advantage of our legislation and create opportunities for innovative solutions in water policy and your industry. A sustainable balance between demand and supply of water is necessary, taking into account the needs of people and the natural ecosystems on which they depend ”.
Spain: slow progress towards water efficiency
Rainfall in Spain has fallen by five percent in the last 20 years. Between 2004 and 2008, Spain suffered the worst period of drought in recorded history. A dry climate and the lack of agreement between the different Spanish regions on water management have generated a situation of scarcity of this vital resource, which has become a problem in many areas. However, this is not a problem that affects only Spain, since the country shares six river basins with France and Portugal. In this sense, national management of water resources also affects citizens in other parts of Europe, reinforcing the need for a coordinated water policy at European level.
The availability of water is crucial for the development of economic activities in Spain but, so far, efforts have been mainly aimed at increasing supply, rather than reducing consumption and enhancing efficiency. The strong tradition that exists in Spain of subsidizing the use of water, together with historical demands on it, have not contributed to an efficient use of water. The European Commission recommends that policies related to the price of water encourage all consumers and economic sectors to use resources in a more efficient way, in addition to accounting for both environmental and resource costs. European legislation is not strict in this regard and Member States can take into account the social and economic effects of recovering these costs.
Despite the fact that this European legislation is now more than a decade old and, although the deadline was 2009, most of the Plans for the Management of Hydrographic Basins have not yet been adopted in Spain. This fact makes it difficult to implement the Water Framework Directive (WFD), including the determination of objectives and the identification of the necessary measures to face water problems in Spain. Without a doubt, the Water Blueprint can be a useful tool and help to ensure the supply of good quality water for all reasonable uses.
A strategy for action
In order to achieve the objectives set by the Water Framework Directive (European Union regulation for the protection and regeneration of water in Europe) existing before 2015, the Water Blueprint proposes a strategic approach based on three levels:
· Improve the implementation of current EU water policies by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the current legal framework.
· Increase the integration of water policy in other relevant areas such as agriculture, fishing, renewable energy, transport, as well as in structural funds and cohesion funds.
· Eliminate the gaps in the current framework, especially in relation to tools necessary to increase the efficiency of water use. In this regard, the Water Blueprint foresees that Member States establish water accounts and water efficiency targets, as well as the formulation of EU rules on the reuse of water at the river basin level.
The implementation of the proposal drawn by the Water Blueprint will be based on the Common Strategy of the Water Framework Directive. It is an open and participatory process that involves Member States, NGOs, and companies. The time horizon of this Action Plan is closely linked to the 2020 Strategy of the European Union, in particular to the Resource Efficiency Roadmap of 2011, of which the Blueprint is the cornerstone. However, the analysis on which the Water Blueprint is based covers a broader time spectrum, up to 2050, and is expected to lead the European Union’s water policies in the long term.
For more information, please visit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press- release_IP-12-1216_en.htm