Challenges of Developing an EU Strategic Approach to Water Scarcity

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Water scarcity is a serious and growing problem in a number of EU Member States. EU water law has traditionally focused on water quality issues. However, the introduction in 2000 of the Water Framework Directive has provided the first coherent legal tool to address water scarcity and this has been supported by further policy aimed directly at water scarcity.

However, there are also many local policy issues which need to be addressed, such as the patterns of agriculture and upgrading water distribution networks. Some issues are also outside of the control of most authorities, such as changing household size and population demography.

This presents major complexities in the policy landscape. Therefore, not only must a range of policies for water scarcity be considered for each country or region, but there must be a clear understanding not only of the opportunities afforded by those policies, but also their limitations. Such policies must include investment in innovation, new infrastructure, water saving technology, implementation of full cost recovery for water supply and, not least, strict regulation.

The complexity of the policy environment and the complexity of the dynamic social and economic interaction with hydrological systems present a major challenge for addressing water scarcity. Meeting this challenge, therefore, requires a partnership between EU, Member State and regional authorities as well as with the public and other stakeholders.

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