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Local and regional governments call for a European water innovation action agenda

Unanimous commitment from cities and regions to move towards a sustainable and circular water-smart society

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has adopted unanimously an opinion on effective water management with a set of recommendations that contribute to the ongoing water legislation review at the EU level. The own-initiative opinion focuses on domestic water management, i.e. water quality, the shortage of fresh water and flood defences. Rapporteur Cees Loggen (NL/ALDE) is member of the Executive Council of the province of North-Holland.

The European Committee of the Regions strongly believes that water management is a capital-intensive policy area in which major investments must be made. To support innovation, local leaders recommend an EU water innovation action agenda to encourage Member States and local governments to facilitate water innovation projects and to reduce administrative burdens to facilitate access to EU funds.

Cees Loggen (NL/ALDE) , rapporteur of the adopted opinion on " Effective water management system: an approach to innovative solutions ", stated: "As climate change affects water management, consistency and coherence is necessary between these two policy areas. Climate change can, for example, lead to more intensive rainfall, floods and contamination of drinking water. Good water management is therefore as important as the threats of climate change on the environment." He also pointed out that "In the longer term, the challenge will be to successfully meet the desired water quality objectives and deal with the impact of rising sea levels and the scarcity of fresh water." Over the last 15 years, floods have led to at least 25 billion euros worth of insured damage. In 2014 alone, the estimated damage amounted to almost 5 billion euros. According to EC projections, the total annual damage is to be five times greater in 2050."We must accept that there are considerable uncertainties in predicting climate change and its impact on water management. The challenge lies in making sensible decisions that do justice to what we wish to preserve now, but that also provide sufficient scope for tackling uncertain future challenges in order to manage the source of life" added Loggen.

The European Committee of the Regions calls on the European Commission (EC) to shift towards adaptive policy-making within the area of water policy, as part of the upcoming review of the Drinking Water Directive, of the Water Framework Directive and the possible review of the Urban Waste Water Directive. The EC should consult local and regional authorities to ensure any future proposals are in the best interests of regions and cities, supporting their competencies rather than reducing them.

While we acknowledge the very ambitious Urban Water Agenda 2030 set up by the Leeuwarden Cities and Water Conference in February 2016 and we certainly encourage cities across Europe to sign up to it, local governments must remain free to manage water policies and decide for themselves whether or not to follow the agenda’s recommendations”, added Cees Loggen.

The CoR encourages Member States and local and regional governments to include in their water policies the concepts of "green infrastructure" and "natural water retention measures" (NWRM), as an alternative to traditional grey structural measures. The European Committee of the Region also supports a reduction of water scarcity and a further increase in water efficiency by prioritising water demand management and water efficiency in irrigation, buildings and in the energy sector. Local and regional leaders are calling for further support of water metering across all sectors and users, as well as encouraging infrastructure investment to address water loss through leakages. Over-extraction should also be tackled through revision of permits.

The water sector has a great economic value for the EU: the European water sector consists of 9 000 active small and medium-sized enterprises which provide 600 000 jobs in utilities alone, according to European Commission.

Notes to editors:

Click here for more information on the European Innovation Partnership on Water.

Click here for more information on the Urban Water Agenda 2030.

Contacts:


Diandra Vanigioli
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 22 99
diandra.vanigioli@cor.europa.eu

David Crous

Tel. +32 (0)470 881 037

david.crous@cor.europa.eu

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