EU Commission plans on water resources will sink without Member State support
Sastavci waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes National park, Croatia
(Brussels 14th November) – Today the European Commission launched its long-term water strategy, “Blueprint to Safeguard Water Resources” - an important step necessary for the EU’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) to be implemented effectively. However the current fear is that without Member State support it will fail.
Despite improvements, Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are still facing many challenges from pollution, water over-usage and degradation, due to infrastructure developments. Under current planning there will only be an improvement in only10% of water bodies across the EU by 2015. This is completely inadequate given that more than 50% of water bodies across the EU have been degraded to a point beyond which they can no-longer sustain functioning ecosystems.
WWF welcomes this push to re-energise Member States in their fledgling efforts to improve the health and quality of their waters, but most of the actions put forward by the European Commission will not be possible without Member State support.
Quotes from Sergey Moroz, Freshwater Policy Officer
“The Water Framework Directive is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands and achieve sustainable water management. However, assessment of Member State plans show that a business-as-usual attitude prevails. Currently hundreds of new hydropower or inland navigation projects are planned without taking into account the trade-offs between water protection and economic development required by the Water Framework Directive”.
“75% of Europeans care deeply about their water and want governments to take stronger action, including making polluters pay for any damages incurred. Ministers currently negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy need to recognise this and make sure that agricultural subsidies be only given to farmers who respect water protection rules. While this is something included in the European Commission “Blueprint” it also needs agreement from both European Parliament and Agricultural Ministers.”
The “Blueprint to Safeguard EU’s Waters” proposes a number of actions including enforcement of the existing legislation by the European Commission, as well as voluntary actions such as developing guidance on pricing water and recovering the costs of environmental damage, ensuring enough water is left in the ecosystems to support aquatic life (ecological flows), or maximising uptake of green infrastructure measures. It also proposes including water protection as condition in Common Agricultural and Cohesion policies.
The March 2012 Eurobarometer on water shows that most Europeans realise the importance of water-related problems and support stronger EU action.
The main findings include:
• Almost 75% of Europeans consider that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe with the main focus of such measures on water pollution from industry and agriculture.
• As many as 68% of those questioned recognise that water-related problems are serious and worry equally about water quantity and quality.
• Europeans also ask for a combination of measures: the introduction of heavier fines for polluters, a fairer pricing policy and financial incentives (tax breaks or subsidies).
• As many as 2/3 of EU citizens say that quality and/or quantity of water is a serious problem.
Contact: Philippe Carr, WWF European Policy Office, Media & Communications,
WWF European Policy Office,
Tel: +32 476 25 68 79