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Addressing water scarcity and droughts in the EU

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Addressing water scarcity and droughts in the EU


Addressing water scarcity and droughts in the EU — COM(2007) 414 final



It recognises the major challenges caused by water scarcity and medium- or long-term droughts in the EU and provides guidelines for addressing them. These deal with:

water pricing;

water allocation;

drought prevention and drought responses;

water supply alternatives;

high-quality information and technological solutions tackling water scarcity and droughts.


For water scarcity and drought problems to be remedied, certain issues need to be addressed. These include:

the need to fully implement the water framework directive so as to address mismanagement of water resources;

inefficient national water-pricing policies;

land-use planning;

promoting water-saving measures; and

the need to act in an integrated and scientific manner.

EU countries must set the right price for water, using an efficient water-pricing policy.

Water allocation and water-related funding must be more efficient to limit adverse effects in river basins. Special measures should be taken in particular to implement the strategic environmental assessment directive.

Improving drought risk management can be achieved if EU countries develop drought risk management plans where necessary, and if they exchange good practices and methodologies at EU level. The EU Solidarity Fund and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism can help to ensure that EU countries receive appropriate aid without delay.

To help reduce leakages and wastage, the European Commission recommends, for example, that standards be developed for water-using devices alongside specific legislation for non-energy-using products that use water (e.g. taps, shower heads, toilets).

Consumers and economic operators should also be involved so as to foster the emergence of a water-saving culture.

Improved knowledge and data collection are integral to decision-making. An information system on water scarcity and drought throughout Europe should be integrated in the water information system for Europe (WISE).

Based on information from the EU countries and its own work, the European Commission prepares annual follow-up reports that assess the implementation of policy options throughout the EU.

A subsequent 2012 document, ‘A blueprint to safeguard Europe's water resources’ includes a policy review for water scarcity and droughts. This states that the objective to reverse water scarcity and drought trends has not been achieved.


Water is a precious resource, yet its availability may be temporarily low due to droughts, or due to a sustained period of time in which demand for water exceeds exploitable water resources (water scarcity).

Water availability problems affect many regions in Europe. By 2007, at least 11 % of the EU’s population and 17 % of its land had been affected by water scarcity. This issue requires combined action at EU level, and it is all the more necessary to take action given that water shortages are likely to persist due to climate change.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council — addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union (COM(2007) 414 final, 18.7.2007)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: a blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources (COM(2012) 673 final, 14.11.2012)

last update 28.10.2015