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Bridging the gap between adaptation strategies of climate change impacts and European water policies

Final Report Summary - CLIMATEWATER (Bridging the gap between adaptation strategies of climate change impacts and European water policies)

Executive Summary:
The overall objective of the ClimateWater project has been to study European and international adaptation measures and strategies related to climate change impacts and how these are taken into account in water policies.
In WP2, "Analysis and synthesis of water related climate change impacts", several hundred projects and documents were reviewed. Major impact areas are flooding, drought and water scarcity. Flooding and severe droughts are already drastically increasing in Europe. Water supply will be seriously handicapped, in many regions. Water quality will very likely deteriorate as a consequence of climate change. Impacts on agriculture are also severe with very high economic, environmental and social impacts. Major water related/dependent industries such as navigation, hydropower and nuclear power generation will be strongly impacted. Impacts on nature and within this on aquatic ecosystems, terrestrial ecosystems, terrestrial/aquatic ecotones were all identified in details.
InWP3 on adaptation measures, strategies are aimed to combat the highly increasing extreme hydrological consequences of climate change, floods and drought. A new concern is the increasing number and severity of floods in Europe with devastating consequences, the extreme flooding of small streams, even of creeks and rivulets. Strategies to fight storm induced sea surges and rising sea water level were also reviewed. The adaptation strategies can be divided into two basic categories: 1) efforts to decrease water consumption by technical measures, pricing policy and by education; 2) measures within water supply including all kinds of storage, through "ecosystem services" with better soil management and other means such as expansion of rainwater harvesting and increased storage capacity by building reservoirs. Strategies to combat climate change induced water pollution pointed to the rising importance of the control of high-runoff induced non-point sources of pollution.
In WP4 the identification of research needs, an Index for Impact Magnitude and Action Urgency was developed. The Project Partners identified research needs aimed at bridging the policy gaps, demanded basic changes in all water related policies and much more detailed monitoring of all waters and even regular field studies. A characteristic example is the Water Framework Directive and its main tool the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). The main conclusions are that research into flood defence, drought combating and ecosystem management strategies must be strengthened.
WP5, "Identifying and bridging gaps in water related European policies", identified that a major gap of the existing water related policies stay on a general level. Some of the major documents of international organisations and larger projects aimed directly at adaptation to climate change also do not give concrete advice. Changes in the policies are often not able to follow the accelerated changes of the climate. To cope with the ever increasing impacts of drought, water pollution and flooding, an enforceable EU-wide regulatory and science based planning of the equitable use of the quantity and quality of water resources will be needed. There are basic underlying misconceptions in some directives (like the Drinking Water Directive). Policies in some cases are simply not existing (Drought, Hydropower and Navigation). The adaptation strategies to bridge the gaps can be divided into the following groups: a) Policy- and decision-making (on national and EU level) in Water Management to create new international legislation that will ensure fair water quality and quantity management. b) Education to adapt to the climate change created situation. c) Designing and implementing the strategies and measures of adaptation, based on field measurements: and this is what we call Ecohydrology. The Co-ordinator‘s final advice on this basis is to ensure ecohydrological planning of the major tool of RBMP to improve WFD and other policies, and act as rapidly as possible.