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Urgent call for political and societal support in climate adaptation

Dry ground due to climat change

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.

Political priority

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 declaration

EUWMA’s statement includes the following elements:

  1. Description of the impact and link of climate change to local water management
  2. Water safety at risk due to climate change
  3. The impact of increasing drought
  4. Package of climate adaptation measures for water managers
  5. Importance of a good governance structure
  6. Investment needed for climate adaptation
  7. Better cross-border and cross-sector cooperation and coordination needed
  8. Climate adaptation measures create essential added value for society.

The full EUWMA declaration: Climate adaptation in local water management

EUWMA presidency visit France: April 2022

In April the EUWMA presidency spend two days in France. One day in Paris to meet with the OECD and a professor on local water management. The next day the presidency spend in the surroundings of Dunkerque together with Marc Polge from Asa de France. They visited the Wateringues Nord – Pas de Calais to learn more about their challenges and work in the northwest part of France.

ADA peatland visit Netherlands: May 2022

At the invitation of the EUWMA presidency, the former EUWMA president and current ADA president, Robert Caudwell visited the Netherlands with two ministry representatives. Robert Caudwell is chairing the UK peatland expert committee and is preparing with colleagues from the ministry an advisory report on halting the peatland deterioration by changing agriculture water management practices.

Annual EUWMA meeting Vinkeveen, Netherlands: September 2021

Due to COVID-19 It was the first time after 2 years that I physical meeting was possible. The focus of the meeting was on climate adaptation. Special guests of the meeting were experts from the OECD and DG CLIMA (European Commission). The day after, 6 September, there was a field trip to the center of the country to learn about water management in sandy areas.

EUWMA midterm meeting Arnhem, Netherlands: June 2022

The central topic of this expert meeting was climate adaptation in rural areas. Climate adaption in rural areas goes hand in hand with close cooperation with farmers. Therefore the field trip was on a farm where several measures to better retain water on and near the agricultural plots were discussed. Focus was on climate adaptation in rural areas and sharing