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Europe’s water supply

The recent discussion about Europe and the question of whether the UK stays in or leaves the EU, has focused attention on our trading relationship, but a bigger question has also recently been asked surrounding whether Europe's freshwater use is sustainable long term.

A report by The European Environment Agency (EEA)  states that about 61 % of the total annual water supplied by the public water supply system is used in the Atlantic (31 %) and Continental (30 %) regions. These two regions are home to more than 360 million people or 67 % of the European community.


Droughts in Europe:

The EEA has examined the use of freshwater resources across Europe and demonstrated that while water is generally abundant across the continent, water scarcity and droughts continue to affect some regions, specifically those that have high demands for water from agriculture and tourism during the summer.

This includes Cyprus, Malta, Crete, the Balearic Islands and Sicily, where 20% of the total population in the Mediterranean region lives under permanent water stress conditions. According to the assessment by the EEA, approximately 20 % of the total population of the Mediterranean region now lives under permanent water stress conditions and this is accentuated in the summer when the Mediterranean islands are under severe water stress conditions due to receiving 10 times more tourists than they have local inhabitants.


European Environment Agency (EEA) Report:

Some key findings from the report are as follows: 

  • The service sector has become one of the main pressures on renewable water resources, accounting for 11 % of total annual water use.
  • Agriculture accounts for 36 % of total water use on an annual scale
  • Approximately 30 million inhabitants live under water stress conditions

An average European citizen uses 36 m3 per year of water from renewable freshwater resources. This corresponds to approximately 98 litres of water per capita per day. These figures exclude recycled, reused and desalinated water. 

The Water Framework Directive requires Member States to promote sustainable use of water resources based on long-term protection of available water resources, and to ensure a balance between abstraction and recharge of groundwater.

Click here to access the EEA indicator assessment Use of freshwater resources


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