Agriculture extremely vulnerable for water scarcity

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Agriculture is extremely vulnerable for water scarcity. That was the main message of  international water experts that hosted the online Water Europe event ‘Understanding water scarcity in Southern Europe’. This event took place on the 16th of June, during Water Innovation Europe 2022. International water professionals followed the event and agreed that political will is needed to solve this problem.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) irrigation accounts for 70% of all water use worldwide. Due to this vast amount of water agriculture is extremely vulnerable for water scarcity. In Greece nearly 81% of the available water resources are used for food production, followed by Spain (66%). In Southern Europe climate change is already causing serious problems for farmers.

Water risks Portugal

One of the speakers Ana Katila Bernardes Ribeiro from the public water company Aguas da Portugal told the rainfall in Spain and Portugal has decreased with 50 percent in Spain and Portugal. It means there is 20% less water available. “For surface water Portugal is dependent from Spanish rivers. It is a high risk for Portugal if the available water resources are used upstream”, states Bernardes Ribeiro.

Northern Europe

Due to climate change water shortages are expected to increase. By 2040 most southern European countries will be affected by forest fires, an increased sea level, salinization, a reduction of agricultural yields, lower water quality and one third of their population will live in water scarce areas. Esther Díez Cebollero from the French National Research Agency adds that not only Southern Europe will have to cope with less water. Also countries in the North, like France and Belgium, will suffer from water shortages. She refers to recent droughts in North and Central Europe.

Water pricing is the solution

According to professor Alfonso Exposito Garcia of the University of Malaga the cost recovery principle (article 9 of the Water Framework Directive) can help agriculture to adapt. Water pricing should not only help to cover all costs, like operation, maintenance and investments, but also include environmental costs and resource costs. He also pleas for using different water resources, like reclaimed water (water reuse) or desalinated water. Another important solution will be good water governance. Politicians at all levels need to work together and manage all available water resources in an intelligent and transparent manner.

Water Innovation Europe

‘Understanding water scarcity in Southern Europe’ was just one of the events of Water Innovation Europe 2022. After two years of Covid the international water community gathered for the first time live in Brussels to exchange knowledge and meet each other in person.

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