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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Use of freshwater resources / Use of freshwater resources (CSI 018) - Assessment published Nov 2005

Use of freshwater resources (CSI 018) - Assessment published Nov 2005

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Generic metadata

Topics:

Water Water (Primary topic)

Tags:
water | csi
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 018
Geographic coverage:
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey United Kingdom
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: Is the abstraction rate of water sustainable?

Key messages

The water exploitation index (WEI) decreased in 17 EEA countries between 1990 and 2002, representing a considerable decrease in total water abstraction. But nearly half of Europe's population still lives in water-stressed countries.

Water exploitation index. Total water abstraction per year as percentage of long-term freshwater resources in 1990 and 2002

Note: 1990 = 1991 for Germany, France, Spain and Latvia; 1990 = 1992 for Hungary and Iceland; 2002 = 2001 for Germany, The Netherlands, Bulgaria and Turkey; 2002 = 2000 for Malta 2002 = 1999 Luxembourg, Finland and Austria; 2002 = 1998 for Italy and Portugal; 2002 = 1997 for Greece; No data for Belgium, Ireland and Norway

Data source:

EEA-ETC/WTR based on data from Eurostat data tables: Renewable water resources (million m3/year), LTAA & annual water abstraction by source and by sector (million m3/year) - Total freshwater abstraction (surface + groundwater).

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

The warning threshold for the water exploitation index (WEI), which distinguishes a non-stressed from a stressed region, is around 20 %. Severe water stress can occur where the WEI exceeds 40 %, indicating unsustainable water use.

In Europe there are eight countries that can be considered water-stressed (Germany, England and Wales, Italy, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria and Cyprus), representing 46% of Europe's population. Only in Cyprus does the WEI exceed 40 %. However, it is necessary to take into account the high water abstraction for non-consumptive uses (cooling water) in Germany, England and Wales, Bulgaria and Belgium. Most of the water abstracted in the other four countries (Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta) is for consumptive uses (especially irrigation) and there is therefore higher pressure on water resources in these four countries.


The WEI decreased in 17 countries during the period 1990 to 2002, representing a considerable decrease in total water abstraction. Most of the decrease occurred in the new EU Member States, as a result of the decline in abstraction in most economic sectors. This trend was the result of institutional and economic changes. However, five countries (The Netherlands, the UK, Greece, Portugal, and Turkey) increased their WEI in the same period because of the increase in total water abstraction.

Specific policy question: Is the use of water by sectors sustainable?

Water abstraction for public water supply (million m3/year) in 1990 and 2002

Note: Eastern (central+northern): Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary (1990=1992), Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia Western (central+northern): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany (1990 = 1991; 2002 = 2001), Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Iceland (1990 = 1992), Norway Western (southern): France, Spain (1990 = 1991)

Data source:

EEA-ETC/WTR based on data from Eurostat data table: Annual water abstraction by source and by sector

Downloads and more info

Water abstraction for manufacturing industry (million m3/year) in 1990 and 2002

Note: Eastern (central+northern): Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary (1990 = 1992), Latvia (1990 = 1991), Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia Western (central+northern): Austria, Denmark, Germany (1990 = 1991; 2002 = 2001), Netherlands (2002 = 2001), England and Wales (2002 = 2001), Finland (2002 = 2001), Sweden, Iceland (1990 = 1992) Western (southern): France, Spain (1990 = 1991)

Data source:

EEA-ETC/WTR based on data from Eurostat data table: Annual water abstraction by source and by sector

Downloads and more info

Water abstraction for energy cooling (million m3/year) in 1990 and 2002

Note: Eastern (central+northern): Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary (1990 = 1992), Poland, Romania (1990 = 1991), Western (central+northern): Austria, Germany (1990 = 1991; 2002 = 2001), Netherlands (2002 = 2001), England and Wales (2002 = 2001), Finland (2002 = 2001), Sweden, Switzerland Western (southern): France, Spain (1990 = 1991)

Data source:

EEA-ETC/WTR based on data from Eurostat data table: Annual water abstraction by source and by sector (mio3/year)

Downloads and more info

Water abstraction for irrigation (million m3/year) in 1990 and 2002

Note: Eastern (central and northern): Czech Republic, Hungary (1990 = 1992), Poland, Romania, Slovenia (2002 = 2001), Turkey (2002 = 2001)

Data source:

EEA-ETC/WTR based on data from Eurostat data table: Annual water abstraction by source and by sector

Downloads and more info

Specific assessment

All economic sectors need water for their development. Agriculture, industry and most forms of energy production are not possible if water is not available. Navigation and a variety of recreational activities also depend on water. The most important uses, in terms of total abstraction, have been identified as urban (households and industry connected to the public water supply system), industry, agriculture and energy (cooling in power plants). The main water consumption sectors are irrigation, urban, and manufacturing industry.


Southern European countries use the largest percentages of abstracted water for agriculture, generally accounting for more than two-thirds of total abstraction. Irrigation is the most significant use of water in the agriculture sector in these countries. Central plus Nordic countries use the largest percentages of abstracted water for cooling in energy production, industrial production and public water supply.

The decrease in agricultural and industrial activities in the new Member States and Romania and Bulgaria during the transition process led to decreases of about 70 % in water abstraction for agricultural and industrial uses in most of the countries. Agricultural activities reached their minima around the mid-1990s but more recently countries have been increasing their agricultural production.

Water use for agriculture, mainly irrigation, is on average four times higher per hectare of irrigated land in southern Europe than elsewhere. The water abstraction for irrigation in Turkey increased, and the increase in the area of irrigated land exacerbated the pressure on water resources; this trend is expected to continue with new irrigation projects.

Data show a decreasing trend in water use for public water supply in most  countries. This trend is more pronounced in new Member States and Bulgaria and Romania, with a 30 % reduction during the 1990s. In most of these countries, the new economic conditions led to water supply companies increasing the price of water and installing water meters in houses. This resulted in people using less water. Industries connected to the public systems also reduced their industrial production and hence their water use. However the supply network in most of these countries is obsolete and losses in distribution systems require high abstraction volumes to maintain supply.

Water abstracted for cooling in energy production is considered a non-consumptive use as the water is returned to the environment. It accounts for around 30 % of all water use in Europe. The western European countries and  the central and northern countries of eastern Europe are the largest users of water for cooling; in particular more than half of water abstracted  in Belgium, Germany and Estonia  is used for this purpose.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Peter Kristensen

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 2 years in October-December (Q4)
Filed under: ,

Comments

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100