An issue of high relevance both to the achievement of the objectives of the Water Framework Directive and sustainable economic growth but one which is not directly addressed by any of the TRAP good practices.

The balance between water demand and availability has reached a serious level in many areas of Europe, the result of over-abstraction and prolonged periods of low rainfall or drought. Typically the needs of those sectors that use water have taken precedence, with freshwater ecosystems being of secondary importance; reduced river flows, lowered lake and groundwater levels and the drying up of wetlands are widely reported, alongside detrimental impacts on freshwater ecosystems including fish and bird life. Lack of water also reduces the capacity to dilute pollution, increasing still further the pressure on water resources and threatening the achievement of good status under WFD. Increasingly, however, those economic sectors that use water are also being affected by its scarcity. In recent hot dry summers, agricultural production has been significantly reduced in Europe whilst energy production has also been affected due to a lack of sufficient cooling water. Unfortunately, climate change is likely to reduce the availability of water across large parts of Europe, particularly during the summer months, whilst any economic growth in the many water-using sectors will increase the demand for water still further, exacerbating the conflict with the freshwater environment.

To solve or at least considerably lessen this conflict a different approach to water management is needed, one which focuses upon conserving water, using it more efficiently and managing the demand. Various measures can be applied across all sectors including, for example, improved irrigation of crops, reduced leakage in supply systems, re-use and recycling within industrial plants, and appropriate charging for water based on the volume used. These measures need to be implemented alongside the legal protection of environmental flows, whereby abstraction can no longer occur once river flows fall to a certain threshold. Such an approach not only supports the goals of WFD but also ensures that economic sectors are more resilient to water scarcity and are able to maintain and grow their productivity in the future.