The WWF welcomes a report from the European Parliament that recognises the need to take further action to address water shortage and quality. The report is Parliament’s response to a European wide shake up on legislation protecting water quality.

However, the WWF believes that Parliament’s report is sending out contradictory messages as it says agriculture should have access to the water it needs, but this conflicts with policies designed to protect water quality and supply.

WWF European Policy Office water policy officer Sergey Moroz explained to edie that in some cases it is not possible for agriculture to have all the water it needs without severely and detrimentally impacting on water basins.

“The main pressures on water basins are coming from agriculture from pollution or over extraction. In some places over extraction has meant that rivers no longer meet the sea and agriculture is draining ecologically important wetlands,” said Moroz. “Through over extraction of ground water you have sea water seeping in spoiling the quality of water for everyone else.”

The WWF is recommending that permits for water extraction and discharging of waste water – which are already in place in most EU countries – be linked to agricultural subsidies. So farmers that act without permits face losing EU subsidies. “By making sure these are linked and there is cross compliance you create a powerful tool,” said Moroz.

As part of the European wide shake up on water legislation, the European Council will also feed in its conclusions to the European Commission. The Commission will then make recommendations in November as to what further action ought to be taken.

There is already a lot of EU legislation designed to protect water courses, however much of this is being underused, which is why the Commission is undertaking this review. Moroz said the review was an unusual course of action and as a result was slightly “confusing” and a “bit of an experiment”.

The Water Framework Directive adopted in 2000, for example, which Moroz described as “relatively revolutionary” was designed to protect water quality not just chemically but also in ecological terms across groundwater, inland surface waters, transitional waters and coastal waters. “It put ecology into the law,” he added.

Each member state was supposed to come up with a water basin management plan by 2009. Four countries – Spain, Portugal, Greece and the Walloon region of Belgium – have not yet done so. Meanwhile, those that have adopted plans are not taking enough action to meet “ambitious objectives” by 2015 to achieve good status of all water bodies in the EU member, and associated, states.

edie staff

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie