Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Annual average river flows are one of the elements that affect freshwater availability in a river basin, in addition to groundwater sources, lakes or artificial water storage facilities. Variations in river flows are determined mainly by the seasonality of precipitation and temperature, as well as by catchment characteristics such as geology, soil and land cover. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns due to climate change modify the annual water budget of river basins and the timing and seasonality of river flows. The consequent changes in water availability may adversely affect ecosystems and several socio-economic sectors, including abstraction for drinking water, agriculture, industry, energy production and navigation. Extreme dry periods with low river flow events can have considerable economic, societal and environmental impacts.
- IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T. F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P. M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.
- IPCC, 2014: Europe. Kovats, R.S., R. Valentini, L.M. Bouwer, E. Georgopoulou, D. Jacob, E. Martin, M. Rounsevell, and J.-F. Soussana, 2014: Europe. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1267-1326.
- Model-based estimate of past change in annual river flows
- Projected change in seasonal river flow for 12 rivers
- percentage change (%)
- cubic metres per second (m³/s)
Policy context and targets
In April 2013, the European Commission (EC) presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package. This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (COM/2013/216 final) and a number of supporting documents. The overall aim of the EU Adaptation Strategy is to contribute to a more climate-resilient Europe.
One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which will be achieved by bridging the knowledge gap and further developing the European climate adaptation platform (Climate-ADAPT) as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Climate-ADAPT has been developed jointly by the EC and the EEA to share knowledge on (1) observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health, (2) relevant research, (3) EU, transnational, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans, and (4) adaptation case studies.
Further objectives include Promoting adaptation in key vulnerablesectors through climate-proofing EU sector policies and Promoting action by Member States. Most EU Member States have already adopted national adaptation strategies and many have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation. The EC also supports adaptation in cities through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative.
In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.
In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
7th Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources /* COM/2012/0673 final */
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy
EC (2000). Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. OJ L327, 22.12.2000.
Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the assessment and management of flood risks
Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks (Text with EEA relevance) OJ L 288, 06/11/2007, p. 27–34
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Key policy question
What is the trend in mean river flow in different seasons across Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
An inventory of river flows in Europe was produced by combining over 400 time series (from 1962 to 2004) of river catchments with near-natural flow conditions for Europe and an ensemble of eight large-scale hydrological models.
The projected river flow is based on a set of 12 climate simulations from the ENSEMBLES project, covering the period up to 2100. The effects of potential changes in future water consumption were included using the WaterGAP3 model.
Methodology for gap filling
- Stahl et al. (2012): 'Filling the white space on maps of European runoff trends: estimates from a multi-model ensemble. Stahl, K., Tallaksen, L. M., Hannaford, J. and van Lanen, H. A. J., 2012, 'Filling the white space on maps of European runoff trends: estimates from a multi-model ensemble', Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 16(7), 2035–2047 (DOI: 10.5194/hess-16-2035-2012).
- Forzieri et al. (2014): 'Ensemble projections of future streamflow droughts in Europe. Forzieri, G., Feyen, L., Rojas, R., Flörke, M., Wimmer, F. and Bianchi, A., 2014, 'Ensemble projections of future streamflow droughts in Europe', Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18(1), 85–108 (DOI: 10.5194/hess-18-85-2014).
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- Filling the white space on maps of European runoff trends: estimates from a multi-model ensemble
- Ensemble projections of future streamflow droughts in Europe
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
River flow and water level data are influenced by rainfall run-off and by hydromorphological changes of the river bed, e.g. through river engineering. Furthermore, homogeneous time series are generally shorter than those for meteorological data. Therefore, substantially more time may be required before statistically significant changes in hydrological variables can be observed, especially with respect to extreme and exceptional events (floods and droughts).
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoPeter Kristensen
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/river-flow-3 or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 23 Apr 2017, 02:13 PM