Policy (Work Package 12)
The ultimate goal of GLOBAQUA is to explore how to adapt management and policies to minimise the ecological, economical and societal consequences of water scarcity and ongoing global change. Scientific results from the project will be integrated with the demands of policymakers and national/EU environmental agencies to fill the communication gap in the Science–Policy Interface. Central to this, is Work-Package 12 (Policy) led by the Imperial team.
The aim of the Policy Work-Package is to establish how current water management practices and policies could be improved by accounting better for the interaction of multiple stressors within the frame of strong pressure on water resources.
This will be accomplished through the following objectives:
• To examine to what extent the methodologies, approaches and tools that diagnose changes in the ecological, quantitative and chemical status of water bodies developed in this study, can support the improvement of existing policies or the development of new ones that deliver environmental benefits and contribute to meeting the environmental acquis.
• To make a meaningful connection between the case studies and policy through evaluating how policy is implemented in the case studies and the observed problems and further needs. This will be achieved through stakeholder interaction processes in the case study areas.
• To facilitate the Paradigm Shift in Environmental Policy required to ensure a more sustainable and holistic approach to water management in the future by providing a list of recommended amendments, supplementations, or improved implementation approaches for EU water policies.
Water scarcity already exerts strong environmental pressures in many European regions, and is a serious cause of concern in many more, according to scenarios of future environmental change. Therefore, it is crucial to gain sound scientific information on the ways water scarcity interacts with other stressors in freshwater ecosystems, in order to understand its environmental and socio-economical consequences, and to convey this information tomanagers, stakeholders and policymakers in order tominimise impacts, to adapt to oncoming changes, and to improve our management and policies.
These are the main tasks of GLOBAQUA, a project that brings together a large group of researchers, stakeholders, and policy makers across a wide range of disciplines. The added value of this collaboration lies in the possibility of addressing the problems arising from the scarcity and multiple stressors, as well as their effects on the ecosystem services and the overall effects of global changes.
Progress of the implementation of EU water legislation
Despite some good progress, nearly half of EU surface waters are unlikely to reach good ecological status in 2015 –acentral objective of EU water legislation. Gaps in monitoring the chemical status of surface waters are particularly significant, with the status of over 40 % of water bodies unknown.
The first Communication and the two reports published (09 March 2015) by the new Commission show how water policies can be a source of green and blue economic growth, with water management technologies at the heart of eco-innovation. The EU Water Framework Directive sets a framework at European level that aims to ensure clean water in sufficient quantities for people and nature, and for use in economic sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture, energy, transport and tourism. The policy has helped develop a dynamic, world-leading water sector that includes 9 000 active SMEs and provides almost 500 000 jobs in Europe. But this growth needs to be supported by better policy implementation to achieve sustainability and environmental objectives. The findings of the Communication were part of an in-depth look at how Member States are implementing EU water legislation. They come with a series of recommendations designed to encourage, for example, better water pricing, controls on water abstraction, industrial plants, and action on pollution from agriculture. Greater uptake of under-used EU funds is also recommended. EU legislation has improved water protection. Problems of quantity and quality are being addressed. As a result most Europeans can safely drink tap water and swim in thousands of coastal areas, rivers and lakes across the EU. Flood risks have been largely mapped, and plans to manage these risks are progressing. But warning lights are also flashing: decades of degradation and ineffective management mean that good environmental quality for all EU waters is still some way distant. This in turn generates extra costs for water purification, and risks endangering human health.
Particular problems include excessive abstraction for irrigation around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, widespread nutrient pollution from agriculture, and changes to river flow as a result of poorly planned hydropower or flood protection, or measures to encourage navigation. While significant investments are still required in many areas, an overview of the 2007-13 financing period shows that Member States have not exploited available EU funding to support water objectives, for instance to treat waste water or to reduce flood risks by restoring flood plains and wetlands.
For full details of the reports, see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/impl_reports.htm
Future direction unclear for WFD
The European Commission recently convened a wide range of stakeholders including water companies to discuss the current state and future of targets under the WFD. The message from the Commission was that while a lot of good progress has been made, all member states are well short of meeting the WFD targets required by 2015. However, the debate at times became polarised between groups continuing to push for faster environmental performance and others, such as water and sewerage providers concerned about where the money will come from to pay the extra associated costs. Another theme that emerged was that the 'one out all out' rule (that a water body has to achieve all the measures to achieve good status - failing on just one is the same as failing on all) is not driving environmental best practice. While water quality is improving, this is not reflected in the statistics. The Commission made it clear at the conference that it expects member states to be rigorous in applying the 'polluter-pays' principle, particularly with regard to agricultural and other diffuse pollution. Some of those speaking at the conference told the Commission the Common Agricultural Policy and WFD should be better aligned.