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With population growth, urbanisation and economic development, the demand for freshwater in urban areas are increasing throughout Europe. At the same time, climate change and pollution are also affecting the availability of water for city residents. How can Europe's cities continue providing clean freshwater to their residents?
We need food and we need clean freshwater to produce our food. With growing demand from human activities on the one hand and climate change on the other, many regions especially in the south struggle to find enough freshwater to meet their needs. How can we continue growing food without letting nature go thirsty for clean water? A more efficient use of water in agriculture would certainly help.
When faced with scarcity or increasing pressures on vital resources such as water and land, the question of who decides can be as important as how natural resources are managed and used. Global coordination is often essential but without local endorsement and involvement, nothing can be done on the ground.
Clean water is a natural resource vital not only for life on Earth but also for the wellbeing of our societies and economy. However, in many parts of Europe, this valuable resource is coming under increasing pressure, often seen in the form of over-exploitation and pollution.
Water is critical for life and is integral to virtually all economic activities, including food production and industry. Not only is clean water a prerequisite for human health and well-being, it provides aquatic habitats that support healthy freshwater ecosystems.
Agriculture imposes a heavy and growing burden on Europe's water resources, threatening water shortages and damage to ecosystems. To achieve sustainable water use, farmers must be given the right price incentives, advice and assistance.
'Our water is shut off once or twice a month, sometimes more,' says Baris Tekin from his apartment in Besiktas, an historic district of Istanbul, where he lives with his wife and daughter. 'We have about 50 litres of bottled water in the apartment for washing and cleaning, just in case. If the water is off for a really long time we go to my father's place or to my wife's parents,' says Baris, an economics professor at Marmara University.
A fisherman's tale: on the night of 6 October 1986 lobster fishermen from the small town of Gilleleje, north of Copenhagen, fishing the Kattegat Sea, found their nets crammed with Norway lobster. Many of the animals were dead or dying. About half were a strange colour.
Rising standards of living often boost demand for water-intensive goods and services. Only by managing water consumption — using measures such as water pricing and incentives to adopt new technologies — can we ensure sustainable public water access alongside economic growth.
We already have much information to guide strategic climate change response measures at the EU, national, regional and local levels. But the effectiveness and efficiency of actions can be improved with more and better information.
Climate change adaptation must be integrated into policies across all sectors and engage all levels of society. To achieve this, new frameworks and governance structures are needed.
Climate change is happening and its effects are wide-ranging. While the worst effects may not hit Europe this year or next, we cannot afford to be complacent. Europeans must put in place timely, adequate and cost-effective adaptation measures.
The seas, and especially the European ones, are warming up. More likely than not, the Arctic will have ice-free summers well before the end of this century. Fish and plankton are already expanding their geographical distribution further north, and the seasonal cycles of certain species are changing.
Many developing country economies are centred on exploiting natural resources to lift their populations out of poverty, potentially damaging the natural systems they depend on. Short-term solutions often undermine the population’s well-being in the long-term. Can governments help the markets set the ‘right’ price for nature’s services and influence economic choices? Here is a closer look at what water use in cotton production means for Burkina Faso.