Europe must double efforts to protect water supply

Europe needs to intensify efforts to keep sufficient quantity and quality of fresh water to maintain the regions ecosystems, according to a series of reports published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Assessing the state of European waters last year, the reports evaluated critical aspects of water to support policymaking, focusing on resource efficiency and water economics, ecological and chemical status, hydro-morphology, vulnerability and biodiversity.

Studies found that almost half of Europe’s water bodies will miss the target set by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and still be in poor ecological status in 2015.

‘Hydromorphological’ changes, such as dams, straightening and dredging can also damage ecosystems, preventing migration and spawning. This affects around 40% of rivers and transitional water bodies and 30% of the lakes.

One of the reports also highlighted that water use often exceeds water availability, resulting in water stress across much of Europe, which consequently has knock-on effects for the economy and the natural world.

Another concern brought to light by the EEA is that drought is increasing across Europe. The number of countries affected by drought per decade increased from 15 in the period 1971-1980, to 28 in the period 2001-2011, while climate change is expected to exacerbate this problem.

The EEA also reported that the quality of bathing water across Europe declined slightly between 2009 and 2010, but the overall quality was still high. More than nine out of 10 bathing water sites met the minimum requirements in 2011.

Solutions to many of Europe’s water problems have been analysed in the European Commission’s Water Blueprint, published last year, which was supported by the EEA’s water reports in 2012.

Leigh Stringer

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