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EU Environment Ministers Address Sustainable Water Management

EU flag21 June 2011: The Environment Council of the EU met on 21 June 2011, in Luxembourg, to discuss the protection of water resources and integrated sustainable water management in the EU and beyond. The Council adopted conclusions including a section on climate change and water policy, and another on ecosystems and ecosystem services.

On climate change, the Council stresses that: adaptation should be integrated into water management decisions, as well as in the context of integrated land use and spatial planning, bearing in mind that water efficiency measures are also no-regret adaptation measures; improved energy efficiency in water supply and waste water management are climate mitigation measures; land use, land-use changes and climate change policies and measures should not endanger water bodies, water-dependent ecosystems or biodiversity; a more proactive management of the risks of floods, droughts and, in general, water quantity management needs is necessary; and the promotion of sustainable multipurpose natural water retention measures (reforestation, floodplain restoration, soil management, wetlands development, etc.) can often provide cost-effective responses to extreme events while offering additional benefits in relation to other environmental, climate and socioeconomic objectives.

On ecosystems and ecosystem services, the Council emphasized that: the value of the multiple services provided by water bodies and water-related ecosystems remain largely unaccounted for in the development and implementation of policies and projects affecting water; the restoration of damaged water-based ecosystems is important to achieve food and energy security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and flood protection; and the ecological effects of infrastructure projects on rivers should be kept to a minimum by taking appropriate mitigation and compensation measures, following comprehensive assessments inclusive of cumulative effects.

The Council concludes that the EU and the UN should further increase their efforts in water-related capacity building, especially for the benefit of developing countries, highlighting the importance of exchanging experiences and solutions at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) in light of the role of water resources management for sustainable development and of water in the green economy. [Council Conclusions]