A report released today by WWF International reveals nearly two-thirds of the European countries surveyed are failing to manage water resources effectively.
The report, Water and Wetland Index Critical Issues in water policy across Europe, assessed the water policies of 23 countries. Of these, Finland, Switzerland, and Belgium-Flanders came out best, while Italy, Greece, and Spain were ranked the lowest across a range of water issues.
The WWF report found that in the majority of cases, countries were taking ineffective measures to tackle the region's water problems such as pollution and over-consumption. It notes that they were taking the "easy option" of increasing water availability rather than the "harder option" of reducing water consumption.
The report shows that six countries (Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey) failed to reduce the amount of water wasted by their agricultural sectors, and that in three of these countries (Italy, Portugal, and Spain) farmers were not even under the constraint of having to pay for the amount of water they use to irrigate their fields.
"Excess water consumption is a problem across Europe, where water is often treated as an infinite resource. Without proper management of our water consumption, Europe will soon start to face critical problems," said Lucia de Stefano, coordinator of WWF's Water and Wetland Index.
The WWF report notes that the majority of the countries surveyed had failed to improve their water management policies despite the adoption of the new EU water law, the Water Framework Directive, in 2000. The Directive aims to improve the management of Europe's freshwater rivers lakes, and wetlands.
"EU countries are going to have to radically change their water management policies if they are going to reach the standards set in the new EU water law," said Andreas Wurzer, head of WWF's European Freshwater Programme. "Our findings show that countries are doing the bare minimum to comply with the Directive because of a lack of capacity or political will. We need a change of attitude so that countries realize the value of water."