Personal tools

next
previous
items

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Publications / Water resources problems in Southern Europe / Title, Table of Contents, Preface and Exec. Summary

Title, Table of Contents, Preface and Exec. Summary

WATER RESOURCES PROBLEMS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE

Topic report 15/96

by

T. Estrela, C. Marcuello and A. Iglesias

European Topic Centre on Inland Waters

August 1996

This report was prepared under the supervision of N. Thyssen, Project Manager,
European Environment Agency

toprep.gif (24219 bytes)

 

Download the report as PDF File[212 Kb]

Download PowerPoint figures: | Fig.1 | Fig.2 | Fig.3 |

The existing regional imbalance of water resources across the continent makes water shortage a great problem in many regions of Europe. This report gives a general overview of the present water resource situation in the semi-arid regions of the EEA area, where water scarcity problems can constitute a threat to sustainable development and have major repercussions from environmental, social, economic and political perspectives.

The availability of water for human consumption, and for other uses, is often limited by poor quality. Typical water resource issues in water scarcity areas include: water surface exploitation; reservoir and lake eutrophication; aquifer exploitation; minimum and ecological flow; wetlands; seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers; floods; desertification and erosion in basins; and, soil salinisation.

The report highlights some key issues and identifies aspects that require further work before the scale of the problems can be fully quantified.

Table of contents

Preface
Executive Summary
1. Introduction
2. Semi-Arid Areas in the EEA Area
3. Current Water Resources Situation in Semi-Arid Zonea of the EEA

3.1.  Introduction
3.2.  Water Surface Exploitation
3.3.  Reservoir and Lake Eutrophication
3.4.  Aquifer Exploitation
3.5.  Minimum and Ecological Flow
3.6.  Wetlands
3.7.  Seawater Intrusion in Coastal Aguifers
3.8.  Floods
3.9.  Desertification and Erosion in Basins
3.10. Salinisation of Soils

4. Water Resources and Climate in the Future
5. Conclusions and Proposed Future Technical Activity
6. References
Appendix A: Definitions of Water Resources

Preface

This report has been prepared by the European Topic Centre on Inland Waters (ETC/IW) in fulfilment of Task 24 - Project MW4/MW5 of the 1995 Technical Work Programme. It is based on the First Draft Report submitted by CEDEX/ITGE to ETC/IW-EEA in July 1995 and on the following new documents:

INAG (1995) Comments to the First Draft Report submitted by CEDEX/ITGE to ETC/IW-EEA "Overview report on the key water issues in semi-arid /water scarcity regions of the EEA area".

INAG (1995) Questionnaires related to the First Draft Report. These questionnaires were received by CEDEX in November, 1995.

ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT (1995) Questionnaires related to the First Draft Report about Sardinia (Italy). These questionnaires were received by CEDEX in November, 1995.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, PHYSICAL PLANNING AND PUBLIC WORKS (1995). Questionnaires related to the First Draft Report about Greece. These questionnaires were received by CEDEX in January, 1996.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, PHYSICAL PLANNING AND PUBLIC WORKS (1996) Comments to the First Draft Report submitted by CEDEX/ITGE to ETC/IW-EEA "Overview report on the key water issues in semi-arid /water scarcity regions of the EEA area". December, 1995.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, PHYSICAL PLANNING AND PUBLIC WORKS (1996) Comments to the Final Draft Report submitted by CEDEX/ITGE to ETC/IW-EEA "Overview report on the key water issues in semi-arid /water scarcity regions of the EEA area". March, 1996.

This report includes information from Greece, the Island of Sardinia in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Two further semi-arid regions in Italy were expected to be included, but no information arrived by the time this report should be submitted. It was hoped that the GISCO (Eurostat) maps of Europe would have been made available for this study but this was not possible. For this reason, the Aegean Islands (Greece) and the Canary Islands (Spain) have not been included in the maps of Europe used in this document.


Executive Summary

The existing regional imbalance of water resources across the continent makes water shortage a great problem in many regions of Europe. This is particularly so in zones with a semi-arid climate. Although water scarcity is recognised as an increasing problem in Southern and Western Europe, the management of freshwater resources is a key question all over the continent This report gives a general overview of the present water resource situation in the semi-arid regions of the EEA area, where water scarcity problems can constitute a threat to sustainable development and have major repercussions from environmental, social, economic and political perspectives. The availability of water for human consumption, and for other uses, is often limited by poor quality. Eutrophication of rivers and lakes, over-exploitation of, and salt intrusion into, aquifers are the main features of poor water quality in semi-arid areas.

Typical water resource issues in water scarcity areas include: water surface exploitation; reservoir and lake eutrophication; aquifer exploitation; minimum and ecological flow; wetlands; seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers; floods; desertification and erosion in basins; and, soil salinisation.

The report highlights some key issues and identifies aspects that require further work before the scale of the problems can be fully quantified.

Data comparability

  1. Mean annual values for precipitation, potential evapotranspiration and runoff need to be calculated and plotted on a pan-European scale using the same methodologies for all countries in order to produce truly comparable data. Similarly synthesis studies of hydrological regimes (quantity and quality) using the same methodologies on a pan-European scale will also improve understanding of the different problems associated with water resources in the different countries and regions.

Key issues

  1. Erosion is an important issue in southern Europe and it is important to know the most affected areas and relate them to hydrological changes (increase of peak flows and decrease of time of concentration). The rate of soil formation decreases year by year. The environmental impacts include not only those on agriculture but also damage caused by flooding.
  2. Water quality problems and the main sources of contamination in southern Europe and their relationships with potential water resources should be characterised. In particular eutrophication of reservoirs and lakes should be monitored as well as the mean concentration of chloride in groundwater (to assess saline intrusion problems).
  3. Drought: the areas affected by drought in southern Europe should be defined and maps of drought risk, resilience and vulnerability produced. Analysis of long series of data on precipitation and river discharges would clarify these drought studies.
  4. Floods in semi-arid areas constitute a natural hazard not covered by current policies. Mapping of vulnerable land use areas and applying management tools would be a good starting point in the development of policy in this field.

Further work requirements

  1. The development of guidelines for environmental impact analysis, management tools, etc. for the conjunctive use of surface and groundwater resources should be made in order to improve the efficiency of water use in semi-arid areas.
  2. The setting of criteria for the determination of ecological flows for semi-arid areas is considered to be of paramount importance. Common criteria in the EEA countries should be derived in order to set guidelines for the maintenance of ecological flows in rivers. River regulation systems should follow a common policy in this aspect, bearing in mind the variety and diversification of aquatic life across European river systems.
  3. As a pre-requisite to points 7 and 8, studies on a pan-European scale related to the social, economical and environmental impacts of extreme events (droughts and floods) would give a good indication of the scope of these problems.
  4. The possible effects of climate change on the quantity and quality of water resources should be investigated, particularly in the semi-arid regions, where the effects could be more adverse.
  5. Knowledge of how the change of land use affects the availability of water resources in the EEA area should be improved, particularly in semi-arid areas. Nevertheless, the lack of reliable data will make that very difficult. Data on land use have not been available at the time this report was written. The outcomes of such an improved study would be, without doubt, an important help for water management.
  6. Water re-use should be further practised in semi-arid areas. Some areas in Greece have made use of such methods for agricultural purposes, but it has not yet spread widely throughout semi-arid regions. Studies on the application of water re-use techniques would be beneficial.

Certain aspects of this study are being taken forward and developed under the 1995 subvention (95/I: Review of efficiency of water use in Europe) and under the 1996 subvention (Task 6; Groundwater quality and quantity).

lijn.gif (900 bytes)

up.gif (859 bytes)
right.gif (869 bytes)
</head0

Geographical coverage

[+] Show Map

Document Actions

Comments

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