Water use by sectors

Page Last modified 18 Feb 2008

All economic sectors need water; agriculture, industry and most forms of energy production are not possible without water.

Navigation and a variety of recreational activities also depend on water. The most important uses, in terms of total abstraction, have been identified as urban (households and industry connected to the public water supply system), industry, agriculture and energy (cooling in power plants). On average, 44 % of total water abstraction in Europe is used for agriculture, 40 % for industry and energy production (cooling in power plants), and 15 % for public water supply. The main water consumption sectors are irrigation, urban, and manufacturing industry.


Southern European countries use the largest percentages of abstracted water for agriculture. This generally accounts for more than two-thirds of total abstraction. Irrigation is the most significant use of water in the agriculture sector in these countries.

Central European and the Nordic countries use the largest percentages of abstracted water for cooling in energy production, industrial production and public water supply.

Publications and links

Further information can be found at EEA CSI18 Use of freshwater resource

Epaedia: How we use freshwater

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