European countries facing water stress due to increasing scarcity, WRI data show
such as Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal are currently facing high
water stress, with water scarcity only set to worsen with climate change,
according to new data from the World Resources Institute (WRI).
“Water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking
about,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of WRI. “Its consequences are in
plain sight in the form of food insecurity, conflict and migration, and
financial instability,” he added.
“A new generation of solutions is emerging, but nowhere near
fast enough,” said Steer, warning that “failure to act will be massively
expensive in human lives and livelihoods”.
The WRI study says that a combination of factors such as
population growth, socioeconomic development and urbanisation are increasing
water demand. Climate change is making things worse by making precipitation and
demand more variable, the report added.
Anticipating the latest UN report on land use and climate
change, campaigners recently warned that water mismanagement and
overconsumption, notably in agriculture, are increasingly exacerbating the
effects of drought across Europe.
Water scarcity could be a permanent future stress if
countries do not act to improve water efficiency in agricultural irrigation,
invest in grey and green infrastructure and recycle waste water, the WRI study
Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population – around 1.7
billion people – currently live in areas where agriculture, industries and
cities outstrip 80% of their available water supply every year, the study says.
The European Commission is expected to present its review of
the Water Framework Directive in October.