Geneva, 21 May 2022 (TDI): One-third of the European Union will be under high water stress by 2070. By this time, the number of affected people from the water and sanitation issues is expected to reach 44 million.

Climate change is already posing severe challenges to water supply and sanitation systems in European Union. The Spokesperson delivered these remarks for the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Thomas Croll-Knight. He warned governments to prepare the critical infrastructure to reduce pressure on people’s access to water and sanitation.

UNECE and WHO highlighted the rising sanitation and drinking water crisis in the Intergovernmental discussions at the Thirteenth meeting of the Working Group on Water and Health. The joint statement focused on the lack of practical strategies and planned to increase access to water in the pan-European region. They also highlighted the lack of coordination throughout 56 countries on drinking water, sanitation, and health issues. Access to water and sanitation are priority areas of the Paris Agreement; however, European Union requires more investment in this sector.

“From reduced water availability and contamination of water supplies to damage to sewerage infrastructure, these risks are set to increase significantly unless countries step up measures to increase resilience now,” warned Spokesperson UNECE.

Each one-degree centigrade increase in global temperature is projected to reduce renewable water resources by 20 percent affecting seven percent of the region’s population.

Dangers of climate change

UNECE highlighted several climate change issues in different parts of the EU due to climate change, including water supply and sewage infrastructure, sewage spillage and management, and impacts of water quality degradation. Water supply challenges in the Netherlands are increasing, whereas Spain is already taking measures to maintain a minimum drinking water supply. The wastewater treatment plants (WTPs) in Hungary also pay additional operational costs for wastewater treatment.

The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Action Programmes (NAPs) lack governance methods and mechanisms for adequately integrating water and climate risks and health and sanitation issues. The discussion recommended implementing the Protocol on Water and Health agreement to overcome the pressing crisis in water management. The proposed multilateral agreement can also support the development of more options for including drinking water supply and sanitation strategies by integrating a clear rationale for mitigating climate change and risk analysis.

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