In Europe as a whole, 45 % of freshwater abstraction is for cooling in energy production, followed by: agriculture, 22 %; public water supply, 21 %; and industry, 12 %. In southern Europe, agriculture accounts for more than half of total national abstraction, rising to more than 80 % in some countries. In western Europe, more than half of water abstracted is used for cooling in energy production.
Public water demand in eastern Europe has declined by 40 % since the early 1990s as a result of higher water prices and the economic downturn. A similar but less marked reduction in demand is apparent in western Europe over recent years, driven by changes in awareness and behaviour and increases in water prices.
Over the past ten years, Europe suffered more than 175 major floods, causing deaths, the displacement of people and large economic losses.
A comparison of the impacts of droughts in the EU between 1976-1990 and 1991-2006 shows a doubling in both area and population affected.
Each European uses, on average, 100-200 litres of tap water a day, but if the amount of water embedded in products (virtual water) such as food, paper, and clothes is included, water use is often 10 to 20 times higher.