Taking water for granted is out. Valuing it properly is in. Brussels has launched a debate on water in today’s Europe. The premise is this: climate change is expected to increase the impact of scarcity, and so an integrated, sustainable approach is vital.
An EU environment spokesman talks about policy balance: “A compromise needs to be struck by the member states when implementing the directive, which, on the one hand, insures that there’s a pricing system in place which gives an incentive to economise the water, and on the other hand, there’s a social need to protect households and consumers.”
Europe’s water resources are mostly considered adequate, but droughts have dramatically increased over the past thirty years, carrying an estimated economic cost of some 100 billion. Recent data indicate that water wastage could be as high as 40 per cent in Europe.
The European Commission is studying proposals for compulsory metering programmes and the user pays rule, promoting water saving devices in homes, and on a larger scale, a more considered allocation of resources between economic sectors. Brussels’ spokesman said: “We need to move to a water efficiency and water saving economy just like we do for energy, because we cannot invent water.” The Commission will report on the results of the great water debate in 2008.