About this event
Conference on Water pricing in agriculture: on track for a fair and efficient policy in Europe?
14 September 2011, Warsaw, Poland
Introduction & Background
Access to good quality water in sufficient quantity is a fundamental requisite for the daily lives of every human being, as well as for most economic activities. However, limited availability, declining quality and growing demand for fresh water have emerged as major obstacles worldwide. Amidst the impacts of climate change and economic development, the provision of sufficient amounts of clean water has become an important global challenge.
Solutions to water scarcity issues and possible use efficiency gains in the various sectors using water resources have grown as focal points of research and policy formulation. The European Commission is preparing a communication called “The Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water” by the end of 2012, which will assess the implementation and achievements of the current policy, while identifying gaps and shortcomings as well as measures and tools that may be needed in order to ensure the sustainable use of good quality water in the EU in the long term.
The main users of water resources include sectors such as agriculture, domestic energy, industry and tourism. Agricultural water use across Europe has increased over the last two decades, accounting now for a rather stable share of around 24% of total water abstraction, mainly due to irrigation practices. In some parts of southern Europe, where crop irrigation has been practiced for centuries and is the basis of economic and social activity, this figure can reach up to 80% or even higher (EEA 2009). Future demand for energy crops and higher water stress pressures resulting from climate change and drought events are expected to increase agricultural water use.
One of the requirements of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC is the set up of a water pricing policy by the Member States which provides adequate incentives to use water resources efficiently and thereby contribute to the environmental objectives of the Directive. Water pricing policies should ensure an adequate contribution of the different water uses (disaggregated into at least industry, households and agriculture) to the recovery of the costs of water services, taking account of the polluter pays principle. In the Communication on Water Scarcity and Droughts adopted in July 2007, the Commission identified an initial set of policy options to be taken at European, national and regional levels to address water scarcity within the Union. At the heart of such policy options is the need to put the right price on water, with the "user pays" principle becoming the rule, regardless of where water is taken from. However, with respect to water pricing, results from the impact assessment accompanying the Communication clearly show that more information and a better understanding of this type of measures is needed.
The Conference will provide an opportunity to review the current situation of water pricing and water allocation policies in agriculture across the EU. Based on practical experience in a number of Member States, the impacts of implementation of potential good practices are discussed.
Intermediate results will be presented of a study commissioned by the Water Protection Unit of DG Environment on “The role of water pricing and water allocation in agriculture in delivering sustainable water use in Europe”. The study aims to provide recommendations for Member States and river basin management authorities in relation to water pricing and allocation policies. The study is conducted by a team consisting of ARCADIS, Intersus, Fresh-Thoughts Consulting, Ecologic and Typsa.
The Conference will involve parallel sessions as well as side events including roundtables and discussions on specific topics. On September 15th, a field trip will be organised.
©fotolia/ Fotolia_Phillip Minnis