European agriculture should face the same ‘user pays’ principle as other EU consumers of water in the coming year in order to address the growing problem of water scarcity, according to a Commission Communication. The report by the Environment DG recognises that at least 20 per cent and maybe 40 per cent of water is wasted in the EU.
Climate change is likely to make drought a more frequent problem. Presenting the report Environment Commissioner Stavros Dinas pointed out that agriculture accounts for more water use than any other sector and as much as two-thirds in Southern Europe.
Supporting studies show that potential water savings resulting from improvements in the conveyance efficiency of irrigation systems range between 10 and 25 per cent of their withdrawals. Water savings resulting from improving application efficiency can range between 10 and 60 per cent of water use. Additional water savings can be expected from changes in irrigation practices (30 per cent), use of more drought-resistant crops (up to 50 per cent) or reuse of treated sewage effluent (10 per cent).
The potential water savings in the irrigation sector would amount to 43 per cent of the current agricultural volumes absorbed.