EU Commission Presents Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Waters

EU waters are not doing well in terms of quality, despite improvements in recent years. Water quantity is of equal concern with water scarcity spreading in Europe and extreme events (like floods) increasing in too many Member States.

We must step up our efforts in order to deal with old and emerging challenges, including water pollution, water abstraction for agriculture and energy production, land use and the impacts of climate change. Strengthened measures are needed to help the EU protect its water resources and become more resource (including water) efficient.

That’s why the Commission has launched a Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources, a strategy for ensuring that enough good quality water is available to meet the needs of people, the economy and the environment.

To achieve the already existing Water Framework Directive objective of good water status by 2015, the Water Blueprint sets out a three-tier strategic approach:

* Improving implementation of current EU water policy by making full use of the opportunities provided by the current laws. For example, increasing the take-up of natural water retention measures such as the restoration of wetlands and floodplains or improving implementation of the “polluter pays” principle through metering, water-pricing and better economic analysis.

* Increasing the integration of water policy objectives into other relevant policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries, renewable energy, transport and the Cohesion and Structural Funds.

* Filling the gaps of the current framework, particularly in relation to the tools needed to increase water efficiency. In this regard, the Water Blueprint envisages water accounts and water efficiency targets to be set byMemberStatesand the development of EU standards for water re-use.

The Blueprint does not put forward a ‘one size fits all’ strait jacket but rather proposes a tool box that Member States can use to improve water management at national, regional and river basin levels.

The Water Blueprint highlights that preserving water is not only about environmental protection, health and well-being. It is also about economic growth and prosperity. It is a way of ensuring that the EU water industry develops fully its growth potential and that all the economic sectors that depend on availability of water of a certain quality can prosper thereby creating growth and job opportunities. The Blueprint is supported by the Innovation Partnership on Water launched in May 2012.

The implementation of the proposals outlined in the Blueprint will rely on the Common Implementation Strategy of the Water Framework Directive. This is an open and participatory process involving Member States, non-governmental organisations and businesses. The Water Blueprint time horizon is closely related to the EU’s 2020 Strategy and, in particular, to the 2011 Resource Efficiency Roadmap, of which the Blueprint is the water milestone. However, the analysis underpinning the Blueprint covers a longer time span, up to 2050, and is expected to drive EU water policy over the long term.

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