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New EEA report aims to help prevent floods and droughts


NEWS RELEASE Copenhagen, 13 August 2001

The European Environment Agency today publishes a report intended to help decision-makers prevent and manage floods, the most common and most costly type of natural disaster in Europe, as well as droughts.

The report, the third and final part of an assessment of sustainable water use, surveys the main natural and man-made causes of floods and droughts based on information and experience gathered from countries across western and central Europe.

The economic cost of flood damage in this part of Europe has been estimated at EUR 99 billion between 1991 and 1995 alone. This does not include the cost of human deaths and injuries.

The areas most prone to frequent flooding are widely distributed geographically: the Mediterranean coast, the Rhine, Seine and Loire valleys, the dyked areas of the Netherlands, the north German coastal plains, the Alpine valleys, the Po valley in Italy, some coastal areas of Portugal, the Danube and Tisza valleys in Hungary and the Shannon Callows (floodlands) in central Ireland. Many of these areas form part of Europe's economic heartland.

Human interference or alterations to soil and vegetation within catchments can seriously affect the risk and impacts of floods. Between 1991 and 1995 the areas most prone to flooding tended to be those that have seen the greatest increase in urbanisation, such as the Mediterranean coast and the Rhine catchment.

At the other end of the water spectrum, Europe is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of droughts as pressure on water resources continues to grow. Demand for water across Europe increased from 100 km3/year in 1950 to 550 km3/year in 1990 and is forecast to have reached 660 km3/year by the end of the 20th century.

Drought is a normal and recurrent feature of the European climate that is not restricted to Mediterranean regions but can occur in high- as well as low-rainfall areas and in any season, the report finds.

Recent research on the impacts of climate change suggests that annual rainfall will increase in northern Europe but drop by about 10% elsewhere by 2050. The drier regions of southern and eastern European Europe show the greatest sensitivity to change.

The report provides information on policy responses to floods and droughts and different countries' national strategies. It also includes descriptions of individual floods and droughts that give a detailed insight into the pressures and impacts of such extreme events and the measures taken to address them.

In most cases droughts are identified as such too late and emergency measures taken are not effective. Little technical guidance exists for water management in situations of drought and the report concludes that further work is needed in this area.

The report is posted on the EEA's website at http://reports.eea.europa.eu/Environmental_Issues_No_21/.

Notes to Editors
The report is titled Sustainable water use in Europe. Part 3: Extreme hydrological events: floods and droughts. It is published as Environmental issue report No 21. The report was prepared by the EEA and its former Topic Centre (centre of expertise) on inland waters. The project was led by the Centro de Estúdios y Experimentación de Obras Publicas (CEDEX, Spain), with the assistance of the Institute of Hydrology (UK), the Austrian Working Group on Water, the International Office for Water (France), the National Environmental Research Institute (NERI, Denmark) and the Phare Topic Link on inland waters (led by Vituki Consult, Hungary).

About the EEA
The European Environment Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy making agents and the public. Established by the European Union (EU) in 1990 by Council Regulation 1210/90 (subsequently amended by Council Regulation 933/1999), the Agency is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (EIONET), a network of some 600 environmental bodies and institutes across Europe.

Located in Copenhagen and operational since 1994, the EEA is open to all countries that share its objectives and are able to participate in its activities. The Agency currently has 24 member countries. These are the 15 EU Member States; Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA); and, since 1 August 2001, six of the 13 countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area that are seeking accession to the EU – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic. Their membership makes the EEA the first EU body to take in the candidate countries.

The remaining seven candidate countries — the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey — will become members of the Agency once they, too, ratify their EEA membership agreements. It is anticipated that they will do so over the next few months, taking the Agency's membership to a total of 31 countries.



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