After being postponed in February, the European Commission has suspended the Water Resilience Initiative. Its submission has, in fact, been withdrawn from the agenda of the upcoming College of Commissioners meeting on March 12. The initiative was meant to be part of the European Green Deal for 2024 and aimed “to ensure access to water for citizens, nature and the economy, while also tackling catastrophic flooding and water shortages”, according to an EU Commission communication dated Oct. 17, 2023.

The postponement until a later date of the Water Resilience Initiative did not go unnoticed in Brussels, however. After an initial statement signed on March 5 by 28 European organizations – including Wetlands International Europe, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, Client Earth and WWF – came a second, more institutional one.

Representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the European Parliament's Water Group, and the Committee of the Regions have actually sent an open letter, addressed to EU Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič. The appeal contains two demands: to ensure that the Commission adopts an integrated approach to water resources as soon as possible, and to reiterate their call for a Blue Deal, particularly on the eve of the new 2024-2029 mandate.

Meanwhile, Spain and Italy face drought

According to the European Drought Observatory (EDO), a service run by the European Commission's Joint Research Center, “during the second decade of February, 16.4 percent of the territory of the European Union was in a condition of high alert.” Again in Catalonia in February, water was rationed for 6 million people. Sicily suffered a similar fate. “As of Monday 4 March, water rationing will be implemented in more than 93 municipalities, affecting 850,000 residents”, Massimo Burruano, Siciliacque's director of operations, told Euronews.

Dorothea, Emil and Fedra (these are the names assigned to the latest perturbations by the Air Force's meteorological service, CNMCA) have brought heavy rain and snowfall at least over the northern part of the Italian peninsula. However, this is not enough to solve water stress in the Mediterranean basin, a hotspot of climate change, which is in fact becoming chronic. According to ISTAT-ISPRA data compiled by Greenpeace Italy, in 30 years Italy has lost 13 percent of its water resources, or 19 billion cubic meters of water (almost the volume of the entire Lake Garda).

The trend is also confirmed by Cima Foundation. In February, the Italian Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) deficit (the water content in snow) is at minus 64 percent. “The worst figure is registered for the Apennines, but the scarcity of snow characterizes the whole peninsula, and in the Alps (fundamental for the water supply of several rivers, including the Po), the deficit is at minus 63 percent, comparable to last year's”, reads a statement.

Water resilience and Blue Deal: calls to the EU Commission

“We call on the European Commission to publish the Water Resilience Initiative without delay and adopt a European Blue Deal for its upcoming term. This will give the much‑needed policy focus that water deserves for a well‑functioning and sustainable society”, declared Pernille Weiss, chair of the European Parliament's Water Group and co-signer of the letter sent to the EU Commission along with representatives of the EESC and Committees of the Regions.

A document that emphasizes how the “cost of inaction is too high” not to establish water as a top priority for the EU. “We stand by our call for an EU Blue Deal. Europe must act now and adopt water as a strategic policy of its own, in order to safeguard access to clean water for all: for our citizens, our farmers, businesses and our natural ecosystems,” commented Pietro De Lotto, president of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) and coordinator of the EESC's EU Blue Deal initiative.

Similar measures, for a common framework for water management, are also called for in the letter sent to the Commission signed by the 28 European organizations. “We call on you,” it reads, “to launch the communication on the EU’s Water Resilience Initiative before the 2024 European elections as set out in the European Commission Work programme for 2024.” In short, adding Water Europe's support for these measures, which is the most prominent of the European water associations, there appears to be no shortage of consensus among stakeholders.


This article is also available in Italian / Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano


Cover image: © European Union, 2024


© copyright reserved