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Nature-based solutions are key for European water security

  • Nature-based solutions are key for European water security
  • New report demonstrates how nature can help address a broad range of water security challenges.

About the entity

The Nature Conservancy
Since 1951, The Nature Conservancy has worked to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends.

Water security is at the heart of healthy and prosperous societies. European countries’ prosperity depends on their ability to maintain the gains they have achieved in water security and address new and rising challenges.

Nature Based Solutions can be deployed to address water challenges related to surface water quality, groundwater quality, floods and water scarcity. This report outlines a strategic vision to mobilise greater investments in nature address Europe’s outstanding water security challenges.

Nature-based solutions for water security can help protect freshwater resources and safeguard nature’s integrity. They can make a significant contribution to reversing the rapid decline in freshwater biodiversity in Europe, adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts. These solutions are increasingly seen as cost-efficient strategies that need to be mainstreamed in water resource management strategies. 

The report’s main objectives are:

  • To identify the roles that nature-based solutions can play to tackle Europe’s water security challenges, as part of hybrid (green-grey) water investment strategies;
  • To extract learning from on-the-ground experiences with investments in nature for water security in Europe and identify enabling conditions and barriers to scale;
  • To formulate recommendations on what needs to be done differently to achieve scale and contribute to boost water security and resilience in the European Union.

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR WATER Categories of water challenges and corresponding nature-based solutions © TNC

NbS-WS are “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address water security challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. Some of these measures entail investments in so-called green infrastructure (e.g., reforestation and building artificial wetlands), while other solutions consist of improved management practices (e.g., agricultural practices leading to reduced fertiliser or pesticides use).

Currently in Europe, NbS-WS are mostly funded through public sources. Some European actors have led the way and invested in NbS-WS, including utilities, cities, river basin agencies or large water users, with the support of public funders and regulatory agencies.

TNC with the support of its partners ICLEI and Ecologic in Europe, documented 19 case studies where these actors have engaged with upstream land stewards and water users to protect water sources, by buying and protecting land, working with farmers and forest managers to support change in agricultural practices or building artificial wetlands to reduce the costs of waste-water treatment. 

WATER SECURITY CHALLENGES IN EUROPE This map shows various challenges faced by countries in Europe, such as flooding and groundwater challenges. © TNC

Key recommendations

Momentum is building to accelerate investments in NbS-WS in Europe. The proposed approaches to allow scaling-up NbS-WS further and faster are:

  • Value

    Give natural capital the place it truly deserves in resource allocation. 

  • Work Together

    Harness the power of collective action. 

  • Mobilise

    Generate investments through outcome-based blended finance packages. 

  • Prioritise

    Identify where greatest results can be achieved. 

  • Know Your Role

    Each type of actor has a role to play to accelerate up-take of NbS-WS in Europe. 

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