The national water management umbrella organizations of several European member states are calling on European leaders to put climate adaptation higher on the political agenda.
They say this in a joint statement they drafted at the annual meeting of European Union of Water Management Associations (EUWMA) in Ostend earlier this month. This year’s meeting of the EUWMA, following the extreme drought that gripped big parts of Europe last summer, focused on increasing weather extremes and the importance of climate adaptation measures. European water managers urgently called for political and societal support in climate adaptation and signed a joint declaration to this end.
Hein Pieper, outgoing president of EUWMA and president of Water Authoritiy Rijn and IJssel: “This summer’s extreme drought has shown once again that weather extremes have socially disruptive consequences. Two-thirds of our continent has been affected. Water is essential for public health, industry, agriculture, nature and transport, but only when there is a shortage does this become apparent. Taking action in water management is therefore urgent because no country can cope with this problem alone. A more ambitious European approach and a dedicated European Commissioner for climate adaptation are therefore desperately needed. True climate adaptation can only be achieved with political prioritization and societal change in dealing with water.”
Extra capacity and investments
Water managers in the capillaries of the water system strongly feel the effects of climate change in their daily work. Longer periods of drought, higher temperatures, and reduced rainfall are forcing water managers to adapt their practices. Their focus is primarily on water retention, water conservation, and water safety measures. This requires additional capacity and investment, something many water managers (elsewhere) in Europe do not have easy access to.
Luzette Kroon, board member of the Dutch Water Authorities, and responsible for international affairs is representing the Dutch delegation in the EUWMA. She too underlines the importance of investment: “Governments must therefore prioritize climate adaptation more in their policies and regulations, and urgently release funding for this. Economic sectors and citizens must also change their behavior and activities. Without this change in society, the water system will increasingly run into its limits.”
EUWMA’s statement includes the following elements:
- Description of the impact and link of climate change to local water management
- Water safety at risk due to climate change
- The impact of increasing drought
- Package of climate adaptation measures for water managers
- Importance of a good governance structure
- Investment needed for climate adaptation
- Better cross-border and cross-sector cooperation and coordination needed
- Climate adaptation measures create essential added value for society.