3. Water quantity
Flood risk management
Catastrophic floods endanger lives and cause human tragedy as well as heavy economic losses. The European Commission estimates that the coming decades are likely to see a higher flood risk in Europe and greater economic damage.
Between 1998 and 2004, Europe suffered over 100 major damaging floods, including the catastrophic floods along the Danube and Elbe rivers in summer, 2002. Severe floods in 2005 further reinforced the need for concerted action. Since 1998, floods in Europe have caused some 700 deaths, the displacement of about half a million people and at least 25 billion in insured economic losses.
To reduce and manage the risks floods pose, the Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks entered into force on 26 November, 2007.
This directive requires member states to carry out a preliminary assessment by 2011 to identify the river basins and associated coastal areas at risk of flooding. For such zones they would then need to draw up flood risk maps by 2013 and establish flood risk management plans focused on prevention, protection and preparedness by 2015. The directive applies to inland waters as well as all coastal waters across the whole territory of the EU.
According to the directive, member states also have to coordinate their flood risk management practices in shared river basins, including with third counties, and shall in solidarity not undertake measures that would increase the flood risk in neighbouring countries. Member states must take into consideration longterm developments, including climate change, as well as sustainable land use practices.
Since 2002, the European Commission has been developing the European Flood Alert System (EFAS) http://efas.jrc.it/ to provide early flood warnings to competent authorities in Member states as a way to improve flood preparedness in Europe. EFAS provides information on the entire river basin, thus allowing authorities downstream to have an overview of the current and forecasted flood situation in countries upstream.
Water scarcity and droughts
Over the past 30 years, droughts have dramatically increased in number and intensity in the EU. According to the European Commissions statistics, the number of areas and people affected by droughts went up by almost 20 percent between 1976 and 2006. One of the most widespread droughts occurred in 2003 when more than 100 million people and a third of the EU territory were affected. The cost of the damage to the European economy was at least 8.7 billion. The total cost of droughts over the past 30 years amounts to 100 billion.
The severity of the problem prompted the European Commission to publish the Communication on Water Scarcity and Droughts in July, 2007.
The Commission emphasises that water should have a correct price, in order to "put an end to needless losses or waste" of water. Thus, higher price is seen as a key motivator for water conservation.
The communication does not propose any new legislation. However, a number of recommendations are preferred, including better land use planning for agriculture and tourism, new drought management plans and increased use of water saving technologies in buildings.
EU responses to water scarcity and drought are part of wider climate change "adaptation" efforts.
- 1. Legislation
- 2. Water quality
- 3. Water quantity
- 4. Marine environment
- 5. Global Water
- 6. Key policy makers and contacts