The EEA report ‘Water resources across Europe — confronting water stress: an updated assessment’ presents the latest knowledge about water availability in Europe arguing for a shift from crisis management to risk management, including focusing more measures that address water consumption.
Water stress — a situation where there is not enough water of sufficient quality to meet the demands of people and the environment — is already a reality in many parts of Europe. Droughts and water scarcity are no longer rare or extreme events in Europe, and about 20 % of the European territory and 30 % of Europeans are affected by water stress during an average year, the EEA report says.
Climate change is expected to make the problem worse, as droughts are increasing in frequency, magnitude and impact. The trends are especially worrying for southern and south-western Europe where river discharge during summer could decline by up to 40 %, under a 3°C temperature rise scenario. In those areas, agriculture, public water supply and tourism put the main pressures on water availability with significant seasonal peak in summer.
Overall, Europe needs to strengthen the resilience of its ecosystems and use water more efficiently to minimise the impacts of water stress on people and the environment. According to the EEA assessment, policies and regulations at European level are in place to address both these issues but their implementation and effectiveness need to be improved.