Press Release

EEA report highlights measures to promote sustainable water use

Press Release Published 05 Apr 2001 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
4 min read
Cost and lack of information are preventing many European households from using devices that can substantially cut their water consumption, according to a new European Environment Agency report on sustainable water use.
NEWS RELEASE Copenhagen, 5 April 2001

EEA report highlights measures to promote sustainable water use

Cost and lack of information are preventing many European households from using devices that can substantially cut their water consumption, according to a new European Environment Agency report on sustainable water use.

Households account for most of the water consumption in urban areas, and between half and two-thirds of the water they use is for flushing toilets, bathing and showering.

Using technologies such as reduced-volume toilet flushes and water-saving devices on taps can cut water consumption for these needs by around half. However, such devices are not employed widely, probably due to a lack of information about such technologies and/or their relatively high price.

Among the report's conclusions is that better public information is required about the need to reduce water use and the technologies available to do so. Producers of water-saving technologies could help with this task, it suggests.

Metered charging of household water use and reducing leakage from the distribution network are essential elements of water demand management. Introducing metering leads to immediate savings in water use of an estimated 10-25% of consumption. Leakage losses can be very high - up to 75% in Albania, for example - but the heavy expense of tracing and repairing leaks can act as a disincentive to remedying these, the report recognises.

The second in a three-part assessment of sustainable use of water in Europe that is being managed by the EEA, the report focuses on how management of water demand is being approached across Europe as well as on measures to increase the efficiency of water use in the medium to long term[1].

Ensuring sustainable use of water resources is a widely recognised strategic necessity in Europe and a central goal of the landmark water framework directive adopted by the European Union last year[2].

Reliable water supply and the protection of aquatic resources through adequate water management are essential to support all aspects of human life as well as dependent ecosystems. While use of water varies across Europe because of different climates, cultures, habits, economies and natural conditions, many countries face the common challenge of coping with limited water resources, in terms of both quantity and quality.

The report identifies the key aspects and factors of water demand management in the different economic sectors - urban, industrial and agricultural. Based mainly on case studies from around Europe, which are summarised, it analyses the environmental effects of water saving, tariffs, metering, leakage reduction, substitution of water in industrial processes and reuse of treated waste water for irrigation purposes.

Irrigation for agriculture has seen a marked increase in southern Europe over the past 15 years. The importance of the direct reuse of waste water for irrigation is increasing in Mediterranean countries but the report finds that standards and guidelines are urgently required. There is also a need for economic incentives to establish new programmes for uses of water that do not require high water quality.

The report is intended both as a source of comparative data to support the assessment of policies in place and a source of information for the development of new policies.

Besides being a comprehensive survey of European water demand management in its own right, the report also represents a timely contribution to the forthcoming comprehensive stakeholder discussion on urban water management that EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström announced on 19 March.

The report is posted on the EEA's web site

Notes to Editors

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. It currently has 18 member countries - the 15 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The 13 countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area that are seeking accession to the EU are expected to join the EEA in the coming months, making the Agency the first EU body to welcome these countries.

1The report, titled Sustainable water use in Europe. Part 2: Demand management, was produced by the EEA's Topic Centre on inland waters on behalf of the EEA. It is published as Environmental issue report No 19. The project was led by the Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas (CEDEX, Spain), with the assistance of the Water Research Centre (UK), the International Office for Water (IOW), the Agences de l'Eau (France) and the Institute of Hydrology (UK). Part 1: Sectoral use of water was published in 1999 as Environmental assessment report No 3. It is posted on the EEA's web site at Part 3 of the sustainable water use assessment, due for publication this summer, will examine the significance of extreme hydrological events such as droughts and floods.

2Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.


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