The European Commission has published the Urban Water Atlas for Europe showing how different water management choices, as well as other factors such as waste management, climate change and even food preferences, affect the long-term sustainability of water use in cities.
The new atlas – the first of its kind – illustrates the role of water in European cities and informs citizens as well as local authorities and experts about good practices and cutting-edge developments that can contribute to ensuring that water is used more efficiently and sustainably.
It also attempts to change traditional perceptions of water being a free and infinite resource, and to encourage conservation. Detailed factsheets in the Urban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions together with a number of overseas examples.
Water scarcity affects more than 10% of Europe’s population
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the European Commission’s in-house science service, Joint Research Centre (JRC), said:
“Water scarcity affects more than 10 percent of Europe’s population. To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The Urban Water Atlas for Europe presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly. This is another great example of how the JRC helps to deliver solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s citizens and the spaces they live in.”
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries added that a strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally.
The atlas was presented during the meeting of Ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta. The publication is one of the results of the BlueSCities project, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.
Online tools to measure city performance
The Atlas comes with two online tools that can help cities manage water more sustainably. The ‘City Blueprint’ is an interactive tool to support strategic decision-making by making it easy to access and understand relevant results and expert knowledge. The tool can present up to 25 different aspects of water management to give an overview of a city’s strong and weak points, and provides tailor-made options for making urban water services more sustainable. The ‘City Amberprint’ is a tool for assessing a city’s progress towards becoming smart and sustainable.
‘City Blueprint’ shows performance in water management
The atlas provides an overall ‘City Blueprint’ for each city. This is a composite index that displays 25 indicators related to water, waste and climate change in one infographic, summarising at a glance how well a city currently manages its urban water resources. The information is important to help identify priorities for further action and investment, but also to visualise strengths and weaknesses. The ‘Blue City Index’ is the overall score based on these 25 indicators.
Water footprint influenced by food preferences
The atlas also presents cities’ ‘Urban Water Footprint’, a measure of domestic water use as well as water use embodied in agricultural products consumed. It aims to raise awareness of the large amount of water used to produce food and the striking difference in water needs among different diets. For example, healthier and low-meat diets could save as much as 30% to 40% of water currently used for food production.
The Urban Water Atlas stems from a collaboration of the European Commission’s in-house science service – the Joint Research Centre – with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O.