European Parliament calls for comprehensive EU water strategy

European Parliament calls for comprehensive EU water strategy. Photo: Hanno Lans, Wikimedia Commons.

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The European Parliament has adopted a set of recommendations on increasing the Union’s efforts to fight climate change following a summer of devastating droughts, forest fires and other extreme weather phenomena across Europe. Importantly, the text urges the Commission to present a comprehensive EU water strategy for improved local water management with more emphasis on re-use and with a call to prevent financial speculation on water.

Following a lively plenary debate, the Parliament adopted a resolution on 15 September to bolster efforts to tackle climate change with a huge majority of 469 votes in favor, 34 against and 44 abstentions. Calls for an EU climate resilience stress test for key infrastructure to be completed by summer 2023 and a ban on trading water as a commodity on financial markets were among the most crucial adopted recommendations.

Guidelines for international water management

Parliament said the water strategy must include the organisation with Member States of a ‘European water conference in order to rapidly develop guidelines on the management of transnational shared river basins, especially in the event of multi-annual droughts, and to ensure a balanced prioritisation between water uses’.

National plans to reduce leakages

In addition to calls for reusing grey water in offices and homes, industries which use large amounts of water were singled out for the need to adopt increased water reuse techniques. And the European Commission was urged to coordinate regional and national plans to tackle water leakage and seepage due to low-quality or poorly maintained infrastructure. However, there were no calls for introducing fines for urban water leakage as occurs in Denmark where legislation does not permit leakage of more than 10%.

Water and energy nexus

The impact of this summer´s low water levels on the energy sector, in particular, was noted along with the points that improved water efficiency can have a direct impact on the reduction of energy consumption and climate change. MEPS also spoke of the need for Member States´ obligations to ensure the human right to drinking water, as recently detailed by WaterNewsEurope.

New normal

Ciarán Cuffe, Green Party MEP for Dublin, and MEP Water Group steering board member, said: “Severe water crises could be the new normal in Europe with climate change: already this year, 64% of the EU was under drought conditions in the summer; and just last year, devastating floods hit Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. These crises can have disastrous effects for communities and public health, crops yields and soil, as well as for inland shipping and hydropower generation. We need urgent action on water in this new reality and the majority of MEPs recognised this need with this resolution.”

Emphasis on savings and re-use

“We called for the Commission to come forward with a comprehensive EU water strategy, for improved local water management and for more emphasis on savings and re-use. Crucially, a Greens/European Free Alliance amendment against the financialisation of water was also adopted, sending a strong signal that fair access and good management of water resources should remain paramount.” Cuffe added that the “Commission needs to come forward with their proposals without delay: there is no time to waste.”

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