Water is a precondition for human, animal and plant life as well as an indispensable resource for the economy. Water also plays a fundamental role in the climate regulation cycle. However, with the threat of ever-hotter and drier summers due to climate change, there are genuinely growing fears over how sustainable the water supply is and how easily it can be replenished. Whilst scarcity is a problem in some areas, climate change can also cause floods that can heavily damage the urban and rural environment.
Coordinated EU action
The European institutions are committed to ensuring Europe’s future water security. This is a challenge that truly transcends national borders and cannot be solved by one country alone. Thus, a coordinated effort is necessary to guarantee effective protection of the EU’s water sources. From a legislative perspective, the keystone of the EU’s water protection policy is the EU Water Framework Directive, which committed all Member States to protecting and enhancing freshwater resources with the aim of achieving a good status for EU waters. Its scope extends beyond lakes, rivers and groundwater to transitional and coastal waters. The main tools for implementing the Directive are the River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and the Programmes of Measures, which are prepared in six-year cycles. The EU’s water legislation underwent evaluation in 2019. An evaluation for the Water Framework Directive, its associated directives and the Floods Directive, and one for the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive were completed. Research and innovation supports the implementation of the directives.
Spurring water innovation through technological progress
However, political action, whilst extremely important, is not enough. Europe must look towards innovation to develop new and pioneering methods to ensure its water security and an adequate supply for all. This Results Pack covers 10 such EU-funded projects, with each project contributing far-reaching solutions and innovative ideas. One significant area covered by several of the featured projects (specifically the ECWRTI, iMETland, REMEB and POWERSTEP projects) is innovation in waste water treatment processes. The projects focus on improving waste water treatment to enable recycling and reuse of water in both industry and agriculture, reduce the operational and energy cost, and increase energy production of waste water treatment plants. Other projects, such as MOSES and MASLOWATEN, have focused their attention on better irrigation in the agricultural sector, with more water and greater energy efficiency. The CENTAUR project has been at the centre of efforts to reduce the risks and consequences of urban flooding. The CYTO-WATER project developed a platform for rapid detection of microorganisms in industrial and environmental waters. Finally, SUBSOL brings new coastal subsurface water solutions to the market and REGROUND has been working to bring forward a novel water nano-geotechnology for the immobilisation of toxic metals in groundwater aquifers, drinking water wells and river bank filtration sites. These projects are supporting the reduction of water stress and pollution, improving water efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the water sector, and promoting water and resource reuse. Their objectives are also much in line with the strategy and priorities put forward by the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, for the European Green Deal, the New Circular Economy Action Plan and the zero pollution ambition.