EU proposals could lead to higher water prices

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Water, Water supply

A new EU report could result in food processors and other
industries paying more for the amount of water they use.

An informal meeting of environmental ministers in Lisbon that ended on 2 September focused on a report just published by the European Commission, which estimates that water use in the bloc could be reduced by about 40 per cent. The figure represents the amount of water the Commission estimates is being wasted in the bloc, a figure nearly twice as much as the body previously thought. Among the policy proposals being considered are ones that would increase the prices for industrial water use in a bid to discourage wastage. Another policy proposal would require companies to pay for all water used in their processes, regardless of source. A July 2007 report by the Commission presented an initial set of policy options to reduce the amount of water used in Europe and to better manage water resources. The Commission estimates water use in the EU will rise by 16 per cent in the years to 2030. The Commission estimates that the use of water saving technologies and irrigation management in the industrial and agricultural sectors could reduce excesses by as much as 43 per cent while water efficiency measures could decrease water wastage by up to a third. Finland, Latvia, Sweden and Slovenia have the largest amount of water resources in the bloc, while Malta, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Poland have the least. Agriculture uses the most water in the bloc. Agriculture accounts for 69 per cent of water use in the bloc. The public water supply accounts for another 13 per cent, industry for 10 per cent, and energy production 8 per cent. Industrial water use globally decreased in the 80s and 90s. "Further investigation will be needed in the future in order to assess whether increases in water use can be expected in the next thirty years, taking into account continuing growth in economic activity and output -- more than 20 per cent in most countries -- as well as increased water use efficiency with technological changes and IPPC implementation,"​ the report stated. Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) is a regulatory system to ensure that industry adopts an integrated approach to pollution control. EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said that the bloc's government should put an end to the tremendous waste of water across Europe. "Water efficiency must be at the core of our policies,"​ he stated before the meeting. "Enormous water savings are possible. Water saving behaviours by European citizens and industry must be actively encouraged and promoted." ​The proposed policy options would push government to put a more economically-sustainable price on water with the "user pays" principle becoming the rule regardless of where water is taken from. To achieve greater water savings and water efficiency, substantial changes will need to be made on how water is channelled to users and how it is used, the Commission proposed. Introducing compulsory water metering and promoting the installation of water saving devices on taps, shower heads, and toilets, for example, would greatly reduce water consumption by individual households. On a larger scale, the Commission proposes a proper allocation of water use between economic sectors along with the integration of water saving in all policy decisions. "Effective water pricing and cost-effective measures and water sustainability and sustainable land use must also become an integral part of policy making in areas such as agriculture and tourism where all activities are adapted to the amount of water available locally,"​ the Commission stated. Food and drink companies are major industrial water users, mainly for processes, products and cleaning. Over the past year many of the major companies in the sector have been taking the lead in cutting water use in their production processes globally. In a sign that environment issues have risen high on the list of boardroom priorities, the chief executives of Nestlé, Coca-Cola and SABMiller in July signed a UN commitment to manage water use at manufacturing plants more efficiently. Under the UN programme, called the CEO Water Mandate, the executives pledged to take immediate action to address the emerging global water crisis. Together they launched a project designed to help companies better manage water use in their direct operations and throughout their supply chains. The UN has pinpointed the food and drink industry as some of the largest uses of water resources worldwide. The CEO Water Mandate asks companies to make progress in six areas: direct operations, supply chain and watershed management, collective action, public policy, community engagement, and transparency. More specifically, endorsers of The CEO Water Mandate pledge to set water-use targets, assist suppliers with water-efficiency practices and partner with governments, policy makers and community groups to address water shortages and sanitation.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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