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EU presents voluntary commitments to address global water crisis

The EU has presented its voluntary commitments to the Water Action Agenda, aiming to address the global water crisis and ensure water security by 2050 ahead of the ongoing UN Water Conference in New York, European Commission announced on Tuesday (21 March).

The EU’s voluntary commitments include supporting better access to water and sanitation for 70 million people worldwide, securing safe drinking water in the EU and enhancing the availability of tap water in public spaces and contributing to the reduction of water use in the EU by setting water-saving standards for products.

The EU is also committed to developing non-conventional supplies such as the reuse of treated water for agricultural irrigation or desalinisation. It will also seek to tackle the pollution of European rivers and oceans, with a 50 per cent reduction of pesticides, nutrients, antimicrobials and plastic litter at sea as well as a 30 per cent reduction in microplastics. In addition, the bloc will commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in water management, among others by reducing the energy needs of urban wastewater treatment plants.

The Water Action Agenda (WAA) is an international platform to accelerate global progress on the water-related UN sustainable development goals.

The EU will also aim to utilise its flagship Global Gateway initiative by committing to improving transboundary water cooperation, supported by investments from the initiative: EU and Member States have committed over 1.1 billion euros for transboundary water management in Africa and Central Asia covering 47 countries and 18 major transboundary water basins.

“More than 90 per cent of all natural disasters are water-related, including floods, droughts and tropical storms. As the IPCC confirmed yesterday, to make our society climate neutral we need bold action and we need it fast,” said Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal. “Protecting and restoring nature is key to taking effective action against the climate crisis. Water is at the heart of such action; whether it’s restoring natural river flows, tackling water pollution by reducing our use of pesticides, or ensuring we are prepared for floods and droughts.”

At the ongoing conference in New York, the EU’s announced priorities include ensuring “access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right,” protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems for sustainable development, climate mitigation and adaptation, and promoting a more “integrated approach” to the management of water resources across sectors. It will also focus on promoting circularity in the use of water for industry, energy and agriculture by increasing water efficiency and water reuse.

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