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News What is the true Potential for Water Saving in the European Union?

Water scarcity and droughts (WS&D) is a growing concern in Europe. Indeed, the number of Member States that experience seasonal or long term droughts has increased. In recognition of the acuteness of the issues caused by water scarcity and drought in Europe, in 2006 and early 2007 the Commission undertook an in-depth assessment of the situation across the EU. This assessment revealed that current water management practices have a large margin for improvement, especially with respect to their water saving potential. Nevertheless, at this time there was no quantified information on the potential for water saving.

In this context, in a recent study commissioned by the European Commission, European researchers and consultants estimated the water saving potential across Europe by 2030. The study addresses the savings that can be achieved via technical measures. It also takes into consideration instruments such as water pricing, labelling or drought management plans that can promote the implementation of these measures. The main sectors using water (Agriculture, Tourism, Households, Energy, and Industry) were analysed. Economic, social and environmental impacts (costs and benefits) of the water saving options were identified. The study is completed with four detailed case studies that illustrate the implementation, feasibility and possible potential of some water saving measures. The study is based on a large literature survey and a summary of data from existing studies.

The main results are as follows:

 Total water abstraction in the European Union (EU-27) has been estimated at 247,000 million m3/year. The sector that uses the most water is energy production, which represents 44% of the total water abstraction in Europe. This sector is followed by agriculture (24%), public water supply (17%) and industry 15%).  

 In the public water supply sector (including households, the public sector and small business), water savings of up to 50% could be achieved by reducing leakage in water supply networks, introducing water saving devices and using more efficient household appliances.  

 As regards agriculture, important water savings could be achieved with improvements in irrigation infrastructure and technologies. For example, improving the conveyance efficiency of irrigation systems could result in savings of 10% to 25%, improving application efficiency in water savings of 15% to 60%, 30% from changes in irrigation practices, up to 50% by using drought-resistant crops, and about 10% from the reuse of treated sewage effluent. The potential water savings from irrigation could amount to up to 43% of the current volume abstracted for agriculture.  

 In industry, the introduction of technical measures such as changes in processes leading to less water demand, higher recycling rates or the use of rainwater, could lead to savings of between 15% and 90% with a global estimate of 43% of today's water abstraction.  

 The tourism sector can be a key user of water in certain areas of Europe. This sector has the potential to reduce its consumption by a maximum of 80%-90% though the application of technical measures such as the installation of newer appliances in guest rooms, cafe areas, kitchens, etc.  

Overall, the results show significant possibilities for water savings by avoiding overexploitation, non-conventional water production and promoting integrated water saving measures. The conclusions of this study offer practical tools for the development of a European strategy for water savings.

European Commission DG Environment Report “EU water saving potential”.

Additional information: The EC’s LIFE-Environment programme has also funded several projects that support actions for water savings. One example is OPTIMIZAGUA (LIFE03 ENV/E/000164), which experimented with artificial intelligence integrated in traditional systems of water control (see project summary, website and layman’s report). Another project based in Estonia (LIFE00 ENV/EE/000922) demonstrated a new more efficient way of addressing the current problems in water supply and sewage systems, typical to the settlements in former Soviet countries, whilst bringing the quality and quantity of drinking water into step with EU water policy and national legislation (see project summary and layman’s report).

Contact information Science Env Policy (email: science-env-policy@biois.com)
News type Inbrief
File link http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/quantity/pdf/water_saving_1.pdf
Source of information Science Env Policy
Keyword(s) EU-LIFE
Subject(s) AGRICULTURE , DRINKING WATER AND SANITATION : COMMON PROCESSES OF PURIFICATION AND TREATMENT , ENERGY , FINANCE-ECONOMY , HYDRAULICS - HYDROLOGY , INFORMATION - COMPUTER SCIENCES , METHTODOLOGY - STATISTICS - DECISION AID , NATURAL MEDIUM , POLICY-WATER POLICY AND WATER MANAGEMENT , PREVENTION AND NUISANCES POLLUTION , RISKS AND CLIMATOLOGY , SANITATION -STRICT PURIFICATION PROCESSES , WATER DEMAND , WATER QUALITY
Relation http://www.emwis.org/topics/WaterScarcity
Geographical coverage EU
News date 11/10/2007
Working language(s) ENGLISH
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