European Union policy for improving drought preparedness and mitigation

drought 2020

(Dan Gold, Unsplash)

This article was written by one of our passionate readers, Ms Viviana Vaira. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue. 

In recent decades the some severe droughts affected large parts of Southern, Western and even Northern Europe. In spite of that, less attention has been paid to the introduction of pro-active policy measures to address this problem, although the concerns about droughts have significantly increased. This is particularly true when considering the direct impact that these events have on citizens, as well as on stakeholders from the economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, industry, energy and transport, which depend on water.

Within the European legislative framework, the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60 (WFD) pursuits the main goal of a good ecological status in all European water bodies. Beside the environmental goals, it sets on a complex planning process that is to be developed by the Member States at basin level in order to safeguard the potential uses of water and protect hydro-ecosystems. Nevertheless, within this context, the problems of mitigation of floods and droughts, as well as the problems concerning the permanent imbalance among water resources and demands have a marginal role.

The Directive therefore does not appear fully adequate to address drought risk. In the face of this scenario emerges the neeed to innovate water scarcity policies by means of a cooperative approach.

Further, within the current policiy framework, most of the measures adopted in large parts of Europe can be characterised as “reactive” measures, which require high investments and often include solutions that are deteriorating to the ecosystems, such as the development of new water sources by transfering them from rich to water poor regions.

This shows that “preventive” measures related to interventions to save and retain water available from wet periods, and to increase the buffering capacity of the soil and the water system shall be fostered. Also “adaptive” measures, which adapt the land and water uses to water levels as they result from natural circumstances, play a key role in term of strategic water scarcity policy. However, this feature of the drought management is broadly missing in the current EU architecture.

To this end, the Integrated Drought Management Programme in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and EUSDR’s Priority Area 5 -Environmental Risks project developed by the Global Water Partnership CEE (GWP CEE) and EUSDR’s PA5 carried on an initiative concerning the revision of the policy instruments and their potential to contribute to EU droughts and water scarcity policies.

Indeed, innovative governance instruments can lead to sound drought management planning, where cooperation and involvement of key stakeholders thus become strategic tools.

The methodology was based on analysis of main policy documents and the systematic monitoring and data collection practices.

A crucial point concerns the revision of the policy instruments and their potential to contribute to EU droughts and water scarcity issues in a circular economy approach. Therefore, Member States shall focus more on incentives to water efficiency and measures fostering water efficient technologies and practices, as well as water saving culture.

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