Analysis and Synthesis -21st Century

To drink or not to drink.  That is the question! Challenges to accessing drinking water

To drink or not to drink.  That is the question! Challenges to accessing drinking water

 Justyna Kalina OCHĘDZAN (PL) Co-spokesperson, EESC Social Economy Category1

President, Greater Poland Coordinating Council – Union of Non-governmental Organisations


Blue gold: this is what we could call drinking water these days. It is leading millions of people around the world to migrate, not in the pursuit of happiness, work or better conditions, but in pursuit of life.

Does the European Blue Deal2 foresee millions of climate migrants, Europe’s regions becoming deserts, or increasing consumption of energy that can’t be produced without consuming huge amounts of water?

Does the green transition see the digital transition in terms of building efficient energy infrastructure, research, innovation and global cooperation on ways to generate energy that follow the “Do No Significant Harm” principle?

 Although we are used to always having running water here, the effects of water stress can also be felt in Europe. According to a report3 by the European Environment Agency4 , droughts and water shortages affect about 20% of Europe’s territory and 30% of its population every year. Water poverty has become a new category of poverty alongside financial deprivation or energy poverty.

Who is using the most water in Europe? Is it farmers, industry or ordinary people running the proverbial taps? If we look at the use of fresh water, from which we get drinking water, agriculture uses the most (58%), followed by cooling water for electricity production (18%), mining, quarries, construction and manufacturing industries (11%), households (10%) and services (3%) (EEA, report on fresh water use5 ).

Therefore, green thinking on the part of consumers in terms of saving or efficient use of water in the spirit of the circular economy is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of possible savings in use of fresh water. In the case of Europe, agriculture and the manufacturing and energy industries should be the economic sectors that feel the greatest pressure to develop efficient methods of saving water and reducing the pollution that further restricts access to drinking water. Is it realistic to ensure universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030, given that according to the United Nations6 , 50% of adults around the world possess only 1% of its wealth?

 What is an affordable price for drinking water as social inequalities continue to rise globally? Access to drinking water must not be a commodity, but a human right – the right of everyone in Europe, and in addition to creating a subsidy scheme for the most vulnerable populations, access to drinking water should also be provided through access to free infrastructure.

1 EESC Social Economy Category, https://europa.eu/!ht47UK

2 EESC EU Blue Deal, https://europa.eu/!6Qhwwf

 3 EEA report ‘Water resources across Europe — confronting water stress: an updated assessment’, https://europa.eu/!CH3HnR

 4 European Environmental Agency, https://europa.eu/!XKFrbg

 5 EEA Environmental Indicator Report 2018, https://europa. eu/!RPPr9g

6 United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/

Source : European Economic and Social Committee Civil Society Organisations’ Bulletin October 2023

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