Competition for Water Resources - Chapter 1.2: Competition for Water Resources From the European Perspective

Elsevier, Competition for Water Resources: Experiences and Management Approaches in the US and Europe, 2017, Pages 19-35
D.Zikos and K.Hagedorn

The pressures on European water resources arise from the natural variability in water availability and climatic changes, but they are also linked to national and international social, environmental, and economic policies. In Europe, the problem of water scarcity is particularly intense in the Mediterranean region, while water quality is rather a typical concern in western European countries. However, it is likely that on a continent like Europe—increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather phenomena and with a growing imbalance between water demand and availability—unequal distribution and allocation of water resources will intensify competition between single users, sectors, or even between neighboring countries. In this context, the call for Europe-wide water strategies, “effective” water policies, and “good” management practices has become crucial to ensure both water security and quality. This chapter provides an overview of water resources in Europe and the associated anthropogenic and natural pressures. It further introduces the main instrument of the European Union (the Water Framework Directive) initiated as a response to the expected water crisis. The chapter is based on secondary data sources from the European Environmental Agency and the authors' metaanalysis conducted between 2005 and 2015. The authors argue that the regional natural and socioeconomic characteristics of Europe call for a new differentiated approach of dealing with water resources. Such an approach should explicitly take into account the major differences between the EU Member States and thus directly address the existing, underlying, or future conflicts resulting from increased competition for water resources.