Water exploitation index
Assessment made on 01 May 2004
ClassificationWater (Primary theme)
- WQ 01c
Policy issue: Which areas in Europe are at higher risk of water stress?
The Water Exploitation Index (WEI) has decreased in 22 countries of the EEA during the period 1990 to 2001.
Six countries in the EEA area, in which 35 % of the population live, can be considered as moderately to highly water stressed.
There are six countries that can be considered water stressed (Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, and Malta), representing 35 % of Europe's population. The four former countries have a WEI between 20 and 40 %, and the two latter have a WEI around 45 %. However, it is necessary to take into account the high water abstractions for non-consumptive uses (energy production) in Germany and Belgium, while in the other four countries, most of the water abstracted is for consumptive uses (especially irrigation) and as a consequence there is a higher pressure on water resources. In Southern European countries, the pressure on water resources increases during summer when water abstractions are higher due to agricultural uses and increased demand from the tourist sector.
The water exploitation index decreased in 22 countries during the period 1990 to 2001, representing a considerable decrease in total water abstractions. Most of the decrease occurred in the Accession Countries, due to the decline of abstractions in most economic sectors. Institutional and economic changes have led to this trend. However, there are six countries (Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Malta) that have increased their WEI in the same period because of the increase in the total water abstraction, with the exception of Malta. In this last country, there has been a decrease in total water abstractions, but the data submitted for the last years on freshwater resources show large differences, which can explain this apparent inconsistency. In the case of UK, the higher WEI is a combination of the increase in total water abstractions and a decrease in the reported freshwater resources.
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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